Monday, October 23, 2017
"POLDARK" SERIES TWO (2016): EPISODES FIVE TO TEN
Sometime ago, I had expressed my feelings about "POLDARK", the 1975 adaptation of Winston Graham's 1953 novel, "Warleggan: A Novel of Cornwall, 1792-1793". Needless to say, my opinions were not overall positive. Then I focused my attention of Debbie Horsfield's recent adaptation of the novel. Considering the writer/television producer's boast that this new adaptation would be more faithful to Graham's literary saga, I found myself wondering how she would handle the writer's most contoverisal entry in his series.
Series Two of the new "POLDARK" stretched out in ten episodes. While the first four adapted the 1950 novel, "Jeremy Poldark: A Novel in Cornwall, 1790-1791" the last six episodes adapted "Warleggan". Episode Five focused on the last months of the life of Francis Poldark, protagonist Ross Poldark's cousin - his emotional reconciliation with his wife, Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark; his duties as a local magistrate; and his excitement over his investment in the Poldark family's revived Wheal Grace. In the end, it was Francis' interest in Wheal Grace and a possible copper lode that led him down into the mine and to his death by drowning.
Despite its tragic ending, I must confess that Episode Five might possibly be my favorite one from Series Two. In a way, it represented the "calm before the storm" that eventually overwhelmed the lives of Ross, Demelza, Elizabeth and other characters. Unlike certain fans of the saga, I never had a problem with the "storm" that overwhelmed the main characters in this chapter of the saga. I never had a problem, as long as it was well-written. And I believe Episode Five was truly a fantastic one, thanks to Debbie Horsfield's writing and Kyle Soller's last and superb performance as Francis Poldark. Episode Five also featured an engagement party in which Ray Penvenen held for his niece Caroline and her foppish fiance, a politician named Unwin Trevaunance. During this party, Elizabeth had quietly confessed in a misguided moment that she still harbored feelings for Ross and sometimes regret marrying Francis in the first place. It was a moment that would rear its ugly head, later in the season. As for the episode itself, it seemed to be the only one featuring the adaptation of "Warleggan" that really impressed me. Because Horsfield's adaptation of the "storm" proved to be very disappointing to me. And I truly missed Soller's presence in the series after this.
Following Francis' death, Episodes Six to Ten focused on a collection of story arcs:
*Ross's continuing financial struggles
*Ross' continuing attempts to wield riches from the Wheal Grace mine
*the courtship between Ross' close friend, Dr. Dwight Enys and heiress Caroline Penvenen
*Elizabeth's financial struggles to manage the debt-ridden Trenwith estate
*Antagonist George Warleggan's attempts to woo the widowed Elizabeth
*Ross and Elizabeth's close relationship and its effect upon Demelza
Despite the six hundred pounds investment he had received from his cousin Francis for Wheal Grace, Ross continued to struggle with finding a cache of copper. And because of this failure, his financial problems continued to persist for the next several episodes. At one point, Ross found himself on the brink of financial disaster when his nemesis George Warleggan had purchased the promissory note he had signed after borrowing money from his banker, Harris Peascoe. Worse, Wheal Grace proved to be an unsafe working environment and collapsed, causing the deaths of two workers. And all because Ross was desperate to find the copper he believed would alleviate his financial woes.
Many fans and critics seemed to lack the patience to watch Ross struggle financially. They seemed more interested in his personal - especially his romantic - life. In a way, I could understand. But I thought Debbie Horsfield handled his financial struggles rather well. However, I was annoyed by two things. One, his mine workers seemed very reluctant to blame him for the Wheal Grace accident. I get the feeling that Horsfield seemed reluctant as well. I admire the fact that she allowed Ross to feel remorse for the accident. But I found it unrealistic that not one Poldark miner was willing to blame Ross, let alone resent him for failing to provide a safe working environment for them. This whole scenario smacked of some management-worker fantasy in order to make Ross look good in the eyes of the fans. As icing on the cake, Horsfield made sure - in a ham-fisted scene - that series villain George Warleggan criticized Ross over the Wheal Grace disaster. If it had been someone else, chances are the audience would be more inclined to criticize Ross.
Unsure over the value of Wheal Grace, Ross made a quick trip to the Isles of Scilly to seek out the fugitive Mark Daniels, the miner who had murdered his wife near the end of Series One. I wish I could say that I found this sequence rather interesting. But to be honest, it lacked the pathos of the 1975 adaptation. Frankly, I have to blame actor Matthew Wilson. For me, he simply failed to convey Mark's guilt and grief over his wife's murder with any real poignancy or effectiveness. The only interesting aspect of this story arc proved to be Ross' return to Cornwall, where he found himself in the middle of a situation between the local smugglers using his cove as a landing spot and the militia. Frankly, I found it more than satisfying and rather exciting. The sequence ended on an exciting note with the death of informer Charlie Kempthorne. Ross managed to avoid the consequences of that night and his role in the smuggling by committing perjury in court and buying witnesses to do the same on his behalf. Unfortunately, poor Dwight Enys not only angered his blue-blooded fiancée by failing to rendezvous for their elopement, the local court fined him fifty pounds for starting a bonfire - which had alerted the smugglers to the presence of the militia.
In the end, a series of events helped Ross and Demelza rise above their poverty-stricken state. One, Caroline Penvenen secretly provided Ross with two thousand pounds, enabling him to pay off the promissory note that George had purchased from Harris Peascoe and prevent the former from eventually taking possession of the Nampara estate. Ross finally struck a lode withing the Wheal Grace . . . but it proved to be tin, not copper. And a neighbor to whom Ross had lent money years ago repaid his debt and allowed Ross to become an investor in his business. By Episode Ten, I came to the conclusion that Ross was not exactly an exceptional businessman and estate manager. It seemed pretty obvious that sheer blind luck was responsible his rising fortune by Episode Ten.
I realize that I had earlier stated that Episode Five was the last time I truly enjoyed Series Two. Well . . . perhaps not. I had no troubles watching the circumstances involving Ross, Elizabeth, Demelza and George unfold. And unlike the 1970s series, this current series did not rush through a good deal of the narrative in order to reach the sequence involving Ross' return to Cornwall on the night of the smugglers' conflict with the militia. I suspect that is due to the fact that the 1975 adaptation of "Warleggan"had stretched through four episodes and the 2016 adaptation stretched through six.
Amidst the turmoil that seemed to engulf the Poldark family and George Warleggan, the romance between the lowly-born Dr. Dwight Enys and upper-class heiress Caroline Penvenen continued its rocky path. Although the pair finally managed to admit their love for one another and become engaged (behind the back of Caroline's uncle, Ray Penvenen). They even managed to form a plan to elope on the night of Ross' arrival from France. However, their plans went nowhere when Dwight ditched them in order to warn the smugglers that a local named Charlie Kempthorne had ratted them out to Captain McNeil and the militia. Do not get me wrong. I do believe that Luke Norris and Gabriella Wilde have some kind of chemistry together. The problem is that I found it difficult to really care about their relationship. The problem was . . . Wilde. She did not strike me as a charismatic actress. There were times when I found her performance rather stiff and rote-like. Even when her character had expressed disappointment and anger over Dwight's failure to rendezvous for an elopement, Wilde did not seemed to be selling these emotions with any real conviction. Series Two ended on a happy note for Dwight and Caroline, when Ross arranged their reconciliation before Dwight was scheduled to set sail with the Royal Navy. Sometime earlier, the War of the First Coalition had started, the first of several conflicts between Great Britain and France for the next twenty years or so.
Ross and Demelza were not the only members of the Poldark family who struggled financially. With Francis dead, Elizabeth and the other inhabitants at Trenwith found themselves in a financial bind. The six hundred pounds that Francis had received from George Warleggan were invested in Wheal Grace. This left Elizabeth cash poor and unable to hire a bailiff to manage the Trenwith estate. She could not manage it, due being only trained to manage a household as mistress of the house. Thanks to Ross' never ending infatuation with her, he seemed willing to help her manage the estate every now and again. He even provided her and Geoffrey Charles with six hundred pounds from the money he had acquired through the sale of his remaining shares of Wheal Leisure. I believe these acts were Ross' way of attempting to rekindle the romance between himself and Elizabeth, now that Francis was gone. Ross became so focused upon Elizabeth that he failed to notice Demelza's growing awareness and concerns over his visits to Trenwith. But Ross was not the only one interested in romance with Elizabeth. George Warleggan, who has harbored romantic feelings for her since the beginning of the series, finally decided to make his move with her. At first, he used tentative steps - the occasional friendly visit to Trenwith, offering her advice on handling the estate's employees and tenants and presenting gifts to young Geoffrey Charles. The only fly in George's ointment was Francis' great-Aunt Agatha Poldark, who disliked him just as much as he disliked her.
As much as I had enjoyed parts of the adaptation of "Warleggan", it was not perfect. And where did it all go wrong for me? Well, the first hint occurred when Demelza complained to her cousin-in-law Verity Poldark Blamey about Ross ignoring her in favor of visits to Elizabeth. And what did Verity do? Talk to Ross about Demelza, which would have been the sensible and direct thing to do? No. She visited Elizabeth at Trenwith and gently convinced her sister-in-law to spend less time with Ross. Sigh. How passive-aggressive. And sexist. Matters grew worse with Horsfield's ridiculous portrayal of Elizabeth as some incompetent woman incapable of maintaining the Trenwith estate matters. This was utterly ridiculous. As a woman and a member of the upper-class, Elizabeth was probably trained by her mother to be the wife of a landowner - namely manage the household of an estate manor. She was never trained to manage an estate or a mine. The same could be said for Verity and Caroline. And although Demelza, who was born into the working-class, could manage a smaller house without servants; also knew nothing about managing an estate. But thanks to Horsfield, only Elizabeth's lack of experience in this matter was emphasized.
It grew worse. Horsfield treated viewers to this ridiculous sequence involving George Warleggan hiring some local thugs to frighten Elizabeth by squatting on Trenwith land. He hoped that this would finally drive Elizabeth to being opened to the idea of becoming Mrs. George Warleggan. I found this incredibly heavy-handed and unnecessary. In the novel, Elizabeth had already begun considering George as a potential spouse, thanks to her financial situation. Apparently, Horsfield thought Elizabeth required a more direct (and heavy-handed) reason to depend more on George. And why did she not turn to Ross? Well . . . she did. She had sent a note to Ross explaining the situation. And here, matters became very silly and childish. The Poldarks' housekeeper, Prudie Paynter, did not bother to hand over the note to Demelza. Ross was at the Isles of Scilly at the time. The entire scenario smacked of a scene from a teen romance novel. A desperate Elizabeth appeared at Nampara asked for Ross' whereabouts. Prudie kept her mouth shut and said nothing about keeping the note. And a cold and obviously jealous Demelza merely informed Elizabeth that the note was never received and Ross was away on business. Both Demelza and Prudie were so busy regarding Elizabeth as "the enemy" that they were obviously too stupid to notice Elizabeth's desperate air. In the end, the latter turned to George to deal with the squatters. From George hiring thugs to squat on Trenwith land to Elizabeth's desperate visit to Nampara - this was one of the silliest and unnecessary sequences I have ever seen in this series.
Then came Episode Eight, which I now regard as the nadir of this "POLDARK" series . . . so far. Earlier in the episode, Demelza encountered Elizabeth in Truro, where the following exchange occurred:
Elizabeth: I’ve been meaning to call upon you to thank you for your kindness these past few months.
Demelza: In lending you my husband?
Elizabeth: . . . in a manner of speaking.
Demelza: Oh, you’re welcome to him, just so long as you remember where he belongs and send him back to me when you’re done with him.
While many viewers were hooting with laughter at Elizabeth's expense or raising their fists in the air crying, "Demelza! You go girl!", I merely rolled my eyes in disgust. One, this scene was never in "Warleggan". Two, once again, Debbie Horsfield managed to slut shame Elizabeth in preparation for what happened later in the episode. And three, she managed to make Demelza look like a passive-aggressive bitch. Good going, Ms. Horsfield!
But what happened between Demelza and Elizabeth was nothing in compare to what was to come. Mrs. Chynoweth, Elizabeth's mother, fell ill and the latter realized she would have to care for her mother. At long last, George proposed marriage, promising both his riches and to clear the Trenwith estate of any debts for Geoffrey Charles. A very desperate Elizabeth accepted and very reluctantly, wrote a letter to Ross, informing him of her engagement. For once, Prudie did not withhold this second letter from Elizabeth and handed it over to Ross. Well, we all know what happened. He lost his temper and ignoring Demelza's pleas, rode over to Trenwith in the middle of the night to end Elizabeth's engagement to George.
The one good thing I could say about this scene between Ross and Elizabeth is that it featured outstanding performances from both Aidan Turner and Heida Reed. I found it interesting that only a few people managed to notice. Otherwise, I loathed it. The novel's version of this scene was ugly enough, considering what Ross did to Elizabeth. But Horsfield's version of the scene was uglier. As in the novel, Ross broke into the house, ignored Elizabeth's protests and confronted her inside her bedroom. He tried to slut shame hr Then he forced himself upon her with kisses and later, forced her on the bed with the intent to rape her. Before he could rape her, Elizabeth embraced Ross, signalling her consent to have sex with him. What made this scene so ugly to me? By having Elizabeth consent at the last moment, Debbie Horsfield seemed to be endorsing the concept of "Rape Fantasy". I had never felt so disgusted in my life.
With the exception of one particular scene, Horsfield provided others following the Ross/Elizabeth scene that either annoyed or disgusted me. Upon Ross' return to Nampara the following morning, Demelza greeted him with a punch to the face and a great deal of hostility. The only aspect of this scene that would have made me cheer was Eleanor Tomlinson's first-rate performance. In the end, I could not because this scene was never in the novel. Worse, Horsfield used this scene to transform Demelza from a passive-aggressive bitch to an anachronistic character. Sigh! In the novel, Elizabeth was reluctant to proceed with her marriage to George, due to the trauma of being raped. At the same time, she wanted Ross to explain himself and apologize . . . which never happened. In Episode Nine, Horsfield attempted to solidify Elizabeth's guilt by having her spend her days at Trenwith, waiting for Ross to leave Demelza for her, thanks to Agatha Poldark's ludicrous suggestion that Ross might actually do this. Despite Caroline Blakiston's very skillful performance, Agatha Poldark proved to be very annoying to me, throughout this entire season. In the end, Elizabeth married George.
Demelza, on the other hand, made the misguided decision to punish Ross by attending a house party given by that old lech, Sir Hugh Bodrugan and engage in revenge sex with Captain McNeil of the militia. Remember that one scene of which I had no problems? Well, it was not Sir Hugh's party. Unlike the 1975 version, it seemed to lack any atmosphere whatsoever of a debauched late Georgian party. Instead, the party sequence seemed to consist of every man admiring Demelza's beauty and desiring her, transforming her into television's ultimate Mary Sue. In the end, Demelza and McNeil retired to a room, where she decided that she did not want to engage in revenge sex, after all. Unlike the 1975 version, which featured McNeil attempting to rape Demelza, this version closely followed Graham's novel by having McNeil deciding not to force himself on her. For once, Horsfield did the right thing. Like Graham, she was willing to show that unlike Ross Poldark, here was a man capable of not forcing himself on a woman.
Unfortunately, Episode Ten returned to the revised crap that Horsfield had inflicted upon Graham's saga. Like the producers of the 1975 series, Horsfield had Demelza contemplating leaving Ross for his infidelity and lack of remorse. Worse, she planned to return to her father's home . . . with young Jeremy. Was this scene in Graham's novel? I do not remember. I do know that she would have never gotten away with taking Jeremy with her to Tom Carne's home. As a man and a member of the landed gentry in the late 18th century, Ross could have easily used the courts to stop her. And I doubt very much that he would have tolerated Jeremy being raised in his father-in-law's household. He detested Tom Carne's bullying and religious fanaticism too much. Once again, Horsfield transformed Demelza into an anachronistic character. And like the 1975 series, Horsfield allowed Trenwith to be threatened by a mob after George had the estate closed off from its tenant farmers. This sequence began with Demelza confronting the newly married Elizabeth in the woods and slut shaming the latter for what happened on the night of May 9, 1793. Again, this was not in Graham's novel. I found it misogynistic and unnecessary. And I suspect that Horsfield added another ham-fisted scene to solidify Elizabeth guilty of adultery in the viewers' eyes.
In the end, the mob led by Jud Paynter did not burn down Trenwith. Demelza arrived at the Warleggans' home to warn them about the mob. Horsfield had Ross behave like romance novel hero and appear at Trenwith - on a white horse (ugh!) - to prevent Demelza from getting swept up by the mob and to prevent the latter from burning Trenwith and harming the Warleggan newlyweds. By the time Episode Ten ended with another scene straight from a romance novel. It featured Ross and Demelza reconciling near the edge of a cliff . . . again. Ugh.
Episodes Five to Ten, which featured the adaptation of Graham's 1953 novel, "Warleggan: A Novel of Cornwall, 1792-1793", had started on such a promising note. But since the novel was controversial, due to the saga's protagonist becoming a rapist, producer Debbie Horsfield and the BBC slowly transformed the adaptation of the novel into a pile of shit. Like their 1975 predecessors, Horsfield and the BBC lacked the balls to closely adhere to Winston Graham's ambiguous portrayal of Ross Poldark. The worst they were willing to do was simply portray him as an adulterer. Because of this, Episodes Five to Ten of Series Two for "POLDARK"seemed to be filled with heavy-handed revisions of Graham's novel and a rape fantasy scene that left me feeling completely disgusted.
Friday, October 20, 2017
"SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" (2017) Review
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) released its second film for the 2017 Summer season - "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING". Although this film marked the first time a solo Spider-man film within the MCU franhise, it marked the second appearance of the Peter Parker/Spider-Man in a MCU film. The character made its first appearance in 2016's "CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR". In an odd way, this film could be seen as a sequel to the 2016 movie. .
Before the 2016 movie, the character of Peter Parker aka Spider-Man had been featured in five films released through Columbia (later Sony) Pictures - three of them directed by Sam Rami between 2002-2007 and two of them directed by Marc Webb between 2012-2014. Instead of allowing Webb to round out his own trilogy, Sony Pictures made a deal with Disney and Marvel Films to allow the Spider-Man character to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), while Sony retained final creative control over over any of the character's solo films and appearances in other MCU movies. In the end, both Sony and Disney hired British actor Tom Holland to be the new Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. The character made his first MCU appearance in the second half of "CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR" when he was recruited by Tony Stark aka Iron Man to help track down and arrest Steve Rogers aka Captain America and other rogue Avengers who had refused to sign the Sokovia Accords in Berlin, Germany.
However, the first ten to fifteen minutes of "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" began in the past . . . a few days following the Battle of New York in 2012's "THE AVENGERS". Adrian Toomes, the owner of a salvage company, has been contracted by the city government to clean up the mess from the Chitauri invasion. However, their operation is taken over by the Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.), a partnership between Tony and the U.S. government. Angered at being driven out of business, Toomes and his employees decide to keep the Chitauri technology they have already scavenged and use it to create and sell advanced weapons. After Peter participates in the Avenges' battle at the Berlin airport, he returns to New York and resumes his studies at the Midtown School of Science and Technology. Tony informs Peter that he is not ready to become an Avenger, yet allows the web slinger to keep an A.I. Spider-Man suit that he had created. A few months later, Peter quits his school's academic decathlon team in order to spend more time focusing on his crime-fighting activities as Spider-Man. The latter also becomes aware of Spider-Man and utilizes a suit with mechanical wings forged from Chitauri technology to become the criminal known as "Vulture". However, his operation attracts the attention of Spider-Man, when the latter prevents a criminals from robbing an ATM with his advanced weapons.
"SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" became the second highest-grossing film of the Summer of 2017, following "GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2" . . . so far. To be honest, I had expected it to become the highest grossing summer film of the year and a lot sooner. Nor did I expect it to become the second-highest grossing film within a span of two months. That seemed a bit long to me for a movie with such high expectations. A part of me cannot help but wonder why it took so long for "HOMECOMING" to achieve this position in the first place. I thought "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" was one of the more down-to-earth MCU films I have seen since 2015's "ANT-MAN". But the latter had the distinction of being something rare in a comic book film genre . . . a heist film. "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" proved to be a more conventional film in which the protagonist takes on a group of local arms dealers, selling their wares to local criminals. Like I said . . . down to earth. The movie also did a solid job in portraying Peter's development as a costumed hero. I say solid, because audiences were first introduced to the MCU's Spider-Man a few months after he had acquired his powers and become a vigilante. So, movie audiences never really saw how this Peter Parker became Spider-Man. But if I must be honest, I did not regard this as a major problem. Somewhat. The movie also did a pretty good job in conveying how Peter's Spider-Man activities interfered with his private life.
The movie also featured what I believed were a few memorable scenes - both dramatic and action. I enjoyed the sequence in which Spider-Man was forced to rescue his classmates from an elevator mishap inside the Washington Monument. Well, most of the sequence. I had one complaint about it, which I will point out later. The ferryboat sequence that featured Spider-Man's attempt to arrest the Vulture provided a good number of tension and great cinematography. The movie's ending proved to be very memorable to me. In this final scene, May Parker, Peter's aunt, walked into his bedroom and found him changing out of his Spider-Man costume. Her reaction to this revelation proved to be the funniest and most original scene in the entire movie. But my favorite moment proved to be when Adrian Toomes discovered Peter's identity as Spider-Man. It happened, in all places, inside Toomes' car as he drove his daughter Liz Allan and Peter to their school's Homecoming dance. From the moment that Liz Allan unintentionally revealed Peter's constant absences, Toomes knew that Peter was the costumed vigilante who had been causing trouble for him and his men.
"SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" also benefited from a first-rate cast. Tom Holland became the fourth actor I have seen portray Spider-Man . . . and the third to do so on the silver screen. He is probably the youngest to portray the role. Many critics and moviegoers regarded his age as the reason why he might be the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I cannot say that I agree with assessment. Mind you, he did a great job in the role. But if I must be honest, I was equally impressed with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's interpretations. Another first-rate performance came from Michael Keaton, who portrayed the movie's main antagonist, Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture. In fact, the Toomes character, along with Keaton's portrayal; seemed indicative of the film's down-to-earth style. I do not regard Adrian Toomes as one of the best villains that have appeared in the MCU franchise. But . . . I must admit that Keaton gave one of the best performances I have seen within the franchise for a while. Thanks to his skillful and subtle performance, Keaton elevated a character that otherwise did not strike me as particularly interesting.
There were a few other performances that I also found enjoyable. One of them came from Marisa Tomei, who portrayed Peter's widowed aunt and sole guardian, May Parker. And thanks to Tomei's skills as a comedic actress, she provided one of the most memorable endings in a MCU film. Jon Favreau continued his portrayal of Tony Stark's right-hand man, Harold "Happy" Hogan. I thought he did an excellent job of portraying Happy's never-ending disregard for any of Tony's fellow costumed vigilantes. Tony Revolori gave a rather entertaining performance as Peter's high school tormentor, Flash Thompson. What I found interesting about Revolori's performance is that unlike the previous versions of this character, his Flash utilize more subtle methods of bullying Peter, due to being the self-indulged man of a wealthy man. The movie also featured solid performances from Laura Harrier, Zendaya, Bokeem Woodbine, Jacob Batalon, Hannibal Buress, Logan Marshall-Greene, Garcelle Beauvais, Tyne Daly, Kenneth Choi; along with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony Stark and Pepper Potts.
However, "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" has its flaws. Unfortunately, I feel that it has more flaws than virtues. I have so many problems with this film that I believe it would take a separate essay to discuss all of them. The best I can do is mention those I can remember at the moment - like the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. What in the hell happened? Talk about a massive screw up. In "CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR", Vision had pointed out that Tony Stark had revealed himself to the world as Iron Man eight years earlier. This movie began a few days after the events of "THE AVENGERS". Then the movie jumped eight years to its main narrative, beginning with Spider-Man's experiences with the Berlin Airport fight in "CIVIL WAR". Following that event, the movie jumped a few months later. Does this mean that both "IRON MAN" and "THE AVENGERS" were set during the same year? The entire Phase One of the MCU - aside from most of "CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER"? I doubt it very much, considering that according to Nick Fury, the events of "IRON MAN 2", "THOR" and "THE INCREDIBLE HULK" had occurred at least a year before "THE AVENGERS". It is all so fucking confusing that I do not want to discuss this any further.
Another problem I had with "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" was the presence of Tony Stark in the film and that damn Artificial Intelligence Spider-Man suit he had created for Peter. I realize that Iron Man was the Marvel character that had kick-started the MCU, but . . . c'mon! It was bad enough that the character had nearly hijacked a Captain America film. Now we had to see Robert Downey Jr.'s mug in this film? And he has proven to be one of the worst mentors I have seen on-screen. Tony's idea of being a mentor was to plant a tracking device in Peter's new Spider-Man suit and order Happy to keep tabs on the kid. You know, long distance mentoring? What the damn hell? It was bad enough that he had dragged Peter all the way to Germany (and without May's knowledge) to help him battle the rogue Avengers. Then upon their return to New York, he advises Peter to stick with capturing local criminals. And then he leaves New York to monitor Peter from a distance. What the hell? I hate to say this, but the actor has really outstayed his welcome in the MCU . . . at least as far as I am concerned.
Speaking of Tony Stark, the movie revealed that he had resumed his romance with his former Girl Friday, Pepper Potts. In fact, they had become engaged. Only this revelation was made near the end of the film . . . in a quickie scene that served as comic relief. Great! Between "CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR" and this film, Marvel revealed how incompetent it has become in portraying on-screen romances - even between established couples. Audiences were told in "CIVIL WAR" that Tony and Pepper had broken up. And we were told in a brief scene in this film that they had not only reconciled, but had also become engaged. The MCU's screenwriters utilized the old "tell but not show" adage in the franchise's portrayal of the Tony/Pepper romance. How sloppy. I never thought I would say this, but I was not that particularly thrilled by the presence of Captain America in this film. Why? Because he was featured in a series of taped Public Service Announcement (P.S.A.) video clips shown to the students at Midtown High. Normally, I would not have a problem with this. And even the final P.S.A. shown in a post-credit scene struck me as rather humorous. But . . . Steve Rogers aka Captain America had been a fugitive for a few months. Why would any school show a P.S.A. featuring a wanted fugitive? The New York City School District had a few months to tape a new P.S.A. Or . . . I could have simply done without this little and unnecessary addition to the film in the first place. I thought it was a waste of my time.
As for the A.I. suit, I hated it. I really hated that damn suit. I hated it. It merely robbed Peter from most of the abilities and nuance that made him Spider-Man - especially his spider senses. Worse, it kept interfering with Peter's vigilante activities. When Spider-Man finally defeated the Vulture without the use of that damn suit, I sighed with relief. Unfortunately . . . the movie ended with Tony giving back that suit to him. Ugh! Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and the comic book versions of the character managed to survive and develop without Stark's tech additions. But apparently, Tom Holland's Spider-Man cannot. Why? Because he is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. UGH!
When I heard that actress/singer Zendaya had been cast as one of Peter's classmates - M.J., I cheered. She would be a new kind of Mary Jane Watson. Only, I had no idea how different Zendaya's M.J. would prove to be. One, her initials did not stand for Mary Jane. They stood for Michelle Jones. They changed the name, but kept the initials? What the fuck for? And like Peter, she proved to be a science-oriented student. Apparently, Marvel felt that the only kind of love interest - present or future - worthy of someone like Peter Parker, is one who is science-oriented like him. Which is why both Liz Allan and M.J. are science-oriented. Worse, the screenwriter completely changed her personality. This M.J. is an introverted and sardonic person in compare to the more extroverted M.J. from the comics. A romance between the introverted Peter and the introverted M.J.? Sounds like a great snooze fest. Come to think of it, the relationship between Peter and Liz Allan struck me as equally dull. I hate to say this but Tom Holland and Laura Harrier lacked screen chemistry. Honestly, she seemed a bit too much for the likes of him . . . on-screen and off.
Speaking of introverts, I found the movie's portrayal of Peter Parker rather confusing. Peter has always been an introvert - even before he became Spider-Man. Only when wearing the Spider-Man suit did he display an extroverted persona. Well, Holland's Spider-Man was extroverted. I had no problems with that. I had a problem with his Peter Parker persona. The only times Holland's Peter displayed any signs of an introverted nature was when he had to deal with classmates like the bullying Flash Thompson. Otherwise, his Peter was unusually extroverted. And he never had to pay the consequences for his activities as Spider-Man. Not really. I thought it would have been more dramatic if his academic decathlon team had suffered a loss at their competition in Washington D.C. because he was busy being Spider-Man. Only they did not.
And the story lost an excuse for Peter to suffer any consequences for being Spider-Man. Also, near the end of the film, Tony offered him a position as a member of the Avengers. He brought Peter all the way to the Avengers facility in upstate New York and had a room waiting for the 15 year-old. Gee! All of this . . . without May's permission? After all, Peter was underage. Was Tony really planning to let Peter drop out of school and leave Queens in order to join the Avengers . . . without May's permission and knowledge? After the shit he had pulled with dragging Peter to Germany in "CIVIL WAR", I guess so. What the hell Marvel?
I realized that director Jon Watts and the five screenwriters who had co-written the screenplay with him thought they were being clever by not starting the movie with Peter's origin story. In a way, how could they? Especially since Peter had been Spider-Man for several months before the events of "CIVIL WAR". But dammit! Watts and the other writers could have utilized a flashback or two to reveal the events of that momentous occasion. More importantly, the movie's screenplay could have mentioned Ben Parker's name and how he had died. They did not even bother to do that. Instead, Peter merely mentioned to his friend Ned that his aunt May had managed to recover from a traumatic event. Peter's uncle went from "Uncle Ben Parker" to "a traumatic event". Gee. How nice.
I also had a problem with Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture. As I had stated earlier, I really enjoyed Michael Keaton's portrayal of the character, despite the latter being an underwhelming villain. But I had a problem with the villain's actions and goals. Let me get this straight. He was about to lose his business, because he lost the contract with the city to clean up the mess from the Chitauri invasion? Really? You mean to say that Toomes' salvaging company lacked any business before the events of "THE AVENGERS"? And how did the D.O.D.C. failed to confiscate the Chitauri technology that Toomes had already collected before losing his contract? When the Chitauri tech threatened to run out two-thirds into the film, Toomes' company was in danger . . . again? This guy could not operate a salvage company without depending upon alien technology? And could someone explain why Marvel had decided to make Liz Allan and the Vulture daughter and father? Yes, both characters are a part of the Spider-Man mythos. But they had nothing to do with each other. And in this film, both had different surnames. What was the point in making Liz the daughter of the Vulture?
I do not know what else to say about "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING". Well, despite some first-rate acting from the likes of Tom Holland and Michael Keaton and a few solid action and dramatic sequences directed by Jon Watts, I guess so. Unfortunately, the movie's virtues seemed to be rather few. And if I must be honest, Watts' direction struck me as okay, but not really that impressive, considering that I was only impressed by a few scenes. But there were too many aspects in this film that either rubbed me the wrong way or seemed badly written to me. In the end, I found "SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING" rather disappointing. It is probably my least favorite Spider-Man film.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Below are images from "DEVIL AND THE DEEP", the 1932 adaptation of Maurice Larrouy's 1927 novel, "Sirenes et Tritons". Directed by Marion Gering, the movie starred Tallulah Bankhead, Gary Cooper and Charles Laughton:
"DEVIL AND THE DEEP" (1932) Photo Gallery
Friday, October 13, 2017
Below are images of culinary dishes created by food stylist/chef, Lisa Heathcote, for the 2010-2015 ITV series, "DOWNTON ABBEY":
"DOWNTON ABBEY" FOOD STYLES