Reel Reviews: Swing time at the box office

By on July 17, 2019

It’s a weird time at the box office. Numbers have underperformed for four weeks straight. And, looking forward, there is not much to draw people to new releases until the kiddos get “Lion King” on July 19 and horror fans get “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” on Aug. 9. It’s a good scenario for “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” which repeated at No. 1 at the box office over the slow weekend.

‘Spider-Man: Far from Home’

There’s nothing slow about film number 23 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a movie I like to call Avengers 5. “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” takes place after “the blip” and everyone is trying to recover from their or their loved ones’ nonexistence, even our friendly neighborhood Spider-man (Tom Holland). But school must go on, and a trip to Europe pits Spidey and his friends, Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya), against Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) and an army of technology.

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” officially ends what has become collectively known as The Infinity Saga, which collects the first three phases of the MCU. It is a punctuation mark on “Avengers: Endgame” and ties together what happened to the billions of people when Thanos snapped.

Essentially “Spider-Man: Far from Home” is the last Avengers film because (spoilers!) it sets Peter Parker up as the heir to the Stark technology; puts Steve Rogers at peace, but hints at a new Cap; and it sets up the next phase of MCU films (without an Avengers anchor), which will include a Black Widow movie, the introduction of The Eternals (read The Eternals #1, July 1976), and sequels for Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel (and those friendly — hmm — Skrulls from the post-credit scene) and Doctor Strange.

Don’t forget, Thor is still wandering around with the new Guardians of the Galaxy. And I’m telling you, Loki is not dead… or at least not completely written off (comic book geeks will warn you of the dangers of Kid Loki). So, I guess it is just time to wait — and maybe rewatch a movie or 23.

Spider-Man (Tom Holland, right) finds a mentor in Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in “Spider-Man: Far from Home.”


I knew exactly what I was getting when I went to see writer/director Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” because I saw his first full length film, “Hereditary,” last year. The quartet of giggling teens sitting behind me had no idea what they were getting into. I expected to see beautiful cinematography, abrupt and jarring scene transitions, fantastic gore mixed with stunning beauty, and a whole lot of sexually-driven nudity. “Midsommar” has all of this and I have to wonder what constitutes an NC17 rating anymore, and how scarred those kids behind me were after leaving the theater.

Dani (Florence Pugh) has lost her entire family in a murder-suicide through the hands of her sister when she decides to follow her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), and his friends on a trip to Sweden for a cultural celebration. The celebration seems at first loving and benign, but quickly turns into a drug-laced, cultish, bloody ritual for what turns out to be a secluded cult in the beautiful and scenic mountains of Sweden (filming actually took place in the North Hungarian Mountains).

I still can’t quite embrace Aster’s filmmaking as his story once again goes full-tilt off-axis as it looks to wind up loose ends conveniently and quickly close out a story built on slow terror. While the imagery is breathtaking and the suspense otherworldly, Aster’s hand forces the viewer into awkward sexual relationships steeped in the bizarre, bordering on pertinent, and lavishly occult. His work presents a confusion both inviting and repulsive.

At the end of the day, I highly recommend this film simply because it breaks away from Hollywood conformations. But, let the kids go see Spider-Man!

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