No movie is perfect but, for my taste, Yesterday comes very, very close. It is the most fun, most feel good, most fulfilled time I have had at the movies this summer. Without question.
Hamish Patel, delightful and charming, plays frustrated singer/guitarist Jack Malik. After a decade of playing D-List gigs at dumps and to empty rooms, he has all but given up his hope of becoming a professional singer when something strange happens. Hit by a bus during a strange, world-wide event, Jack awakens to discover that he is the only person on Earth who remembers the Beatles and their music. He begins to share their songs as if they were his own and rockets to stardom as a result.
In the process, he leaves behind his old friend and manager Ellie Appleton, played by the ubiquitous and delightful Lily James. Jack and Ellie have been working on his career ever since they were kids and knew each other in school and, as things finally take off for Jack, Ellie – a school teacher – has no choice but to stay behind and watch him from afar. The movie manages, however, to keep them onscreen together quite a lot, and this is a good thing. The two have great chemistry.
One cannot discuss the movie without a brief mention of the scenery chewing turn by Kate McKinnon. She is wonderfully terrible as Jack’s new manager and injects friendly venom in every line reading. And Ed Sheeran should be saluted, too, for his persona mocking work as himself.
Yesterday is a movie that is pure fantasy and knows it. It does not try to explain why people have forgotten the Fab Four (and forgotten other, amusing things, too) or what the global event was. It does not need to do so. It asks the audience to go along for the ride and quite a pleasant ride it is.
Richard Curtis, the writer of Love Actually is behind this movie and there are more than a few pleasant resonances from that film in this one. He has a knack for romantic comedy and a love of high concepts (as evidenced by his criminally underrated About Time). He imbues his characters with a sweetness that never crosses into cloying. He also is a lover of coincidence and that plot element is on display in Yesterday.
Directed with much style and a sure hand by Danny Boyle, the movie is a rollicking romp. It only asks for a suspension of disbelief and a desire to get caught up in a little magic. If you cannot do that, Yesterday is not the film for you. But, if you want some joy, want some romance and want some great music, this is the film for you. Yesterday knows exactly what it is. It also knows exactly what it wants to do: it wants to take its audience down to Strawberry Fields, where nothing is real, but everything is wonderful.
YESTERDAY receives FOUR AND A HALF YELLOW SUBMARINES out of a possible FIVE
Once the full trailer for Spider-Man Far From Home was released and it became clear that the post-Avengers | Endgame setting was critical to the story, my expectations were altered. I went in to Far From Home feeling I was about to see an extension of Endgame that would clear up some ambiguities (like Spider-Man’s entire class was snapped out of existence?) and answer some questions (like how is the world coping with all the returning people?). The movie supplies some of those answers but flips the script and the tone from the Wagnerian epic that was Infinity War and Endgame so readily that I was caught off guard.
I shouldn’t have been. It is clear that these Spider-Man movies are meant to be, first-and-foremost, high school comedies. That the main character has super powers and is involved in a wider narrative is secondary to the story. Settling in to that perspective and watching Far From Home in that mindset changes my reactions to the movie.
In a bit of meta-casting, Jake Gyllenhaal, who was once rumored as the replacement for Tobey Maguire for Spider-Man 2, plays Mysterio, a superhero from a newly discovered alternate dimension. He has come to Spider-Man’s earth to warn of a new cosmic threat and to pitch in in defeating it. Gyllenhaal is game for the role and somehow seem at home in what is – without a doubt – the most silly Marvel costume yet. Dude is wearing a fishbowl on his head and he makes it work. He also shares a very nice chemistry with Tom Holland, who remains absolutely spot-on as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
In this film, Peter is dealing with the events and the deaths of Avengers | Endgame and not even the quirky and engaging Aunt May (Marisa Tomei is ideal and having a great time in the part) and the suddenly gruffly lovable father figure Happy Hogan (played by Jon Favreau in increasingly and amusingly “I’m too old for this S%^& manner) can help. Peter is questioning his place in the superheroing world, the demands of an oddly out-of-character Nick Fury (always perfectly embodied by Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (once again realized by Cobie Smulders) notwithstanding. Rather than join Fury for superheroics, Peter dedicates himself to his fun group of classmates (Zendaya as MJ and Jacob Batalon as Ned are standouts) and to their summer trip to Europe. Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man no more!
It’s in Europe that things get complicated – really, really complicated – and Peter realizes, as any audience buying a ticket for a Spider-Man movie knew he must – that with great power comes…
The movie is breezily directed by Jon Watts and he clearly loves the material. Packed full of Easter eggs, Marvel comics references and clever dialogue, this is the most family friendly of the Marvel movies and the most action figure friendly, too. Spider-Man wears no fewer than four different costumes and faces more than a handful of adversaries in the course of the movie. Let’s mold plastic!
The drawback of the film might be a problem that challenges all Marvel movies going forward. Spider-Man Far From Home is the mind-boggling twenty-third film in the series and the baggage it carries is significant. With each passing installment, the pressure to amaze and thrill the audience while staying true to a broader tapestry is building and it makes this movie too clever by half. Many of the things that seem odd or out of place or shoehorned into the narrative only make any kind of sense when the after the credits sequences rolls (and I do mean AFTER the credits – stick around!). Don’t get me wrong. I love these movies and I love the interlocked nature of them. I am so impressed by the scope. It is simply that, for the first time in a long time, I felt the overall story of the main character was compromised by the needs of the franchise.
That does not mean I won’t be seeing Spider-Man Far From Home again, however!
SPIDER-MAN FAR FROM HOME receives THREE AND A HALF TINGLES out of a possible FIVE
It is very difficult to review Avengers | Endgame without spoiling something. One of the recurring reactions during this movie was “how did they hide THAT?!?” In this age of spoilers, the fact that so much of this movie unfolded without the audience knowing what was coming next is something of a superheroic accomplishment in-and-of-itself. I found myself shocked and pleased by each successive surprise and, as I consider the movie a few days after seeing it, utterly pleased by each-and-every moment that directors Joe and Anthony Russo and the screen writers packed into this 3 hour movie, a runtime that never once felt long.
There is much to accomplish in this movie. If the title and the press is to be believed, it is the wrap up of 22 prior films and provides a coda to the story line that was originated in 2008’s Iron Man. The most impressive feat of the movie is that it lives up to those expectations. It accomplishes all it sets out to do and it is surprisingly funny in doing so.
We know the story: following the events of Avengers | Infinity War half of the population of the universe has been annihilated and the surviving Avengers are wrestling with what to next. Can they find a way to undo what Thanos’ snap accomplished? Do they continue to “avenge” in this new world? Are they done with the superhero game all together?
One of the most impressive things about the movie is that any and all of the above answers seem possible. The audience has very little idea of where this movie is going to take them (even if they assume that time travel is, in fact, involved). Somehow, the filmmakers manage to engage, amuse and surprise with this Tale to Astonish and the ride is terrifically fun.
But the stakes are real. They are high. There are repercussions. Deaths count. Actions have reactions. Decisions have consequences.
That’s a good thing after the emotional investment many have made in these movies and in these characters.
One of the things that have set these Marvel Studios films apart is the spot-on casting and the all-in nature of the performances that the actors have given in their iconic roles. Robert Downey, jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner – the original Avengers – are all so very good in this movie as they have been in all of these Marvel films, that one hates to see the closing credits roll. Without question, things have changed. The endgame has been reached. Each of these actors has terrific moments in the movie and each deserves them. Likely we will never see them assembled together in quite the same way.
Telling a “last” chapter is a challenging thing. Think of the final installments that have preceded this movie. They are often less than fulfilling either as a conclusion to running plot lines. They are often less than fulfilling as a conclusion to emotional arcs. Avengers | Endgame satisfies on both of these fronts and on so many more.
If this is truly the end, what a magnificent end it is!
AVENGERS | ENDGAME receives FIVE CODAS out of a possible FIVE
I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.
It’s time. Are you ready for ENDGAME?
If you’re not, click HERE for a primer from Screencrush.
Captain America: The First Avenger|Iron Man |The Incredible Hulk|Iron Man II | Thor |The Avengers |Iron Man 3 |Thor: The Dark World |Captain America: The Winter Soldier |Guardians of the Galaxy | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 |Avengers: Age of Ultron |Ant-Man |Captain America: Civil War |Doctor Strange |Spider-Man: Homecoming |Thor: Ragnarok |Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War | Ant-Man and the Wasp | Captain Marvel
One thing that absolutely must be said about Marvel Studios is that those who run it are very, very clever. With the massive cliffhanger ending that was Infinity War, the gave us Ant-Man and the Wasp which took place 3 days before the events of that movie and Captain Marvel which took place 20 years before that film.
Captain Marvel is a great movie that, in its own way, is as revolutionary as Black Panther. Something of a celebration of women’s empowerment, the movie moves through the conventions of the super hero origin story quickly and deftly and manages to turn audience expectations a bit upside as it does. This is, in my opinion, to the good. I had no problem with the change in canon that Captain Marvel creates. It works.
Captain Marvel herself emerges as, perhaps, the most powerful superhero of them all. She is so powerful, in fact, that she will likely turn the tide against Thanos in Endgame.
Captain America: The First Avenger|Iron Man |The Incredible Hulk|Iron Man II | Thor |The Avengers |Iron Man 3 |Thor: The Dark World |Captain America: The Winter Soldier |Guardians of the Galaxy | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 |Avengers: Age of Ultron |Ant-Man |Captain America: Civil War |Doctor Strange |Spider-Man: Homecoming |Thor: Ragnarok |Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War | Ant-Man and the Wasp| Captain Marvel
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Ant-Man and the Wasp was a perfect palate cleanser following the oversized and universe shattering (literally) Avengers | Infinity War. Marvel movies in general and superhero movies overall tend to have stakes that are nothing less than the salvation of the world. Ant-Man and the Wasp feels personal and, dare I say it, small by comparison.
That is a good thing.
A charming romp that is a delightful action comedy, the movie further explores the story of Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne, the titular characters, and finds time for a fairly extended and highly entertaining supporting cast to shine as well. It also brings the quantum realm fully to the forefront and that, for sure, will have major ramifications for Endgame.
By-the-way, speaking of Endgame and the supporting cast here, I would LOVE for the movie to start with a half hour of Michael Pena’s Luis explaining all the Marvel movies that predate this concluding chapter. That would be amazing!
Captain America: The First Avenger|Iron Man |The Incredible Hulk|Iron Man II | Thor |The Avengers |Iron Man 3 |Thor: The Dark World |Captain America: The Winter Soldier |Guardians of the Galaxy | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 |Avengers: Age of Ultron |Ant-Man |Captain America: Civil War |Doctor Strange |Spider-Man: Homecoming |Thor: Ragnarok |Black Panther | Avengers: Infinity War| Ant-Man and the Wasp | Captain Marvel
Avengers | Infinity War
Epic. Unexpected. Shattering. Avengers | Infinity War is a movie that manages to balance a gigantic cast of existing characters while, somehow, introducing a compelling handful of new ones. And it manages to give each of them a specific moment to play. That, in-and-of-itself, is a great accomplishment.
Bringing Thanos finally to the fore, Infinity War is unlike other Marvel movies for one very important reason (and you wouldn’t be reading these posts if you had to be worried about spoilers): the Avengers lose.
As heroes (and half of the rest of life in the universe) turn to dust, thoughts of the audience turn to the next installment of the series and wonder how the heroes will turn this around.
That they will is doubtless. How they will will be revealed this week.
Thanos (this is the first time we’ve really seen him)
Does anything else matter?
CONNECTION(S) TO ENDGAME:
Every piece of this movie leads to Endgame.
We will know a lot more about what pieces of this movie are going to be most developed in Endgame. Certainly, there are plot elements and keys to the inevitable victory of the Avengers laced throughout this film.