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The summer movie season may be beginning to wind down, but the remaining weeks still have a few more big releases in store for us. And this Independence Day weekend was no exception. This week we’ve got the next film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe featuring everyone’s favorite web slinging superhero, and the next horror movie from the filmmaker who brought us “Hereditary.” So without any further ado, let’s get to the reviews. *** First up is “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” In this next chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man series, our friendly neighborhood web slinger Peter Parker (Tom Holland) decides to join his friends Ned (Jacob Batalon), MJ (Zendaya),and therestofthegangona European vacation. However, Peter’s plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks creating havoc across the continent. First of all, if you’re reading this review I’m going to assume you’ve watched “Avengers: Endgame.” Either that, or you don’t care about spoilers for Marvelmovies. If youhaven’tseenEndgame, y o u should probably stop reading. In fact, you should probably avoid all “Spider-Man: Far From Home” related media, including trailers, because the conclusion of Endgame is deeply intertwined with the main story arc of Far From Home. Now that I’ve got the obligatory spoiler warning out of the way, let’s continue. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is in an interesting spot right now. From the very beginning this series has been constantly building to something bigger or more grand. The end of “Iron Man” planted the seed for an, as of then, unprecedented superhero team up event with Nick Fury’s Avengers Initiative. That of course lead to “The Avengers,” which teased an even grander future for the burgeoning cinematic universe introducing numerous cosmic threats, including the grandest one of them all, Thanos. Now, over a decade later, where does the MCU go from here? After the events of Endgame, with Thanos defeated and the population of the universe restored, what happens next with our heroes? For the first time in the history of this cinematic universe, we have no idea what’s on the horizon for this series. No teasers for upcoming villains, no major looming threats lurking off in the distance. There’s nothing. It’s all a mystery, and Marvel is being unusually tight lipped about what the future holds. Maybe we’ll get some answers at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, but for now it seems the MCU is content in taking it one movie at a time. For its part “Spider-Man: Far From Home” functions less like the next chapter of the series, and more of an epilogue to the grand events of the previous story. What happened to the planet after half the population was restored? How does an Earth without Iron Man move on? And most importantly, what does Peter Parker do after losing his mentor Tony Stark? This movie does address those questions. But at the end of the day, much like “Spider-Man: Homecoming, this is still a film about a high school kid dealing with some decidedly high school problems. Because of that, this movie can’t help but feel microscopic in the shadow of Endgame. I don’t mind that though. Despite being in the same franchise, many of the movies in the MCU have found ways to incorporate various genres in their films. From high fantasy to heist comedy, this series has it all. So why not a couple smaller scale coming of age dramas? You just have to make sure to adjust your expectations before going into this film is all. On the whole, I liked the story for this movie pretty well. It started a little slow, and I have to admit the high school level drama did begin to wear on me at points, but it was never too overbearing, thankfully. Regardless, by the second half of the movie I was all in. I really enjoyed where the narrative ended up. In fact at this point, I’d say I’m more excited for the next Spider-Man movie than I was for this movie. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the ramifications for Peter’s character are absolutely massive. Acting wise, the entire cast is great here. Which is basically par for the course as far as MCU movies go. Tom Holland continues to be fantastic as our web slinging hero. At this point he’s probably my favorite live action version of the character. He really was perfectly cast for the role. I also really like Zendaya as MJ. She’s incredibly forward and brutally honest, but also really awkward in an endearing kind of way. I liked her in Homecoming, and I liked her even more here. Naturally, Samuel L. Jackson can’t help but steal the show as Nick Fury, but the real scene stealer here, not to mention the best performance in the entire movie by far, goes to Jake Gyllen- h a a l as Quentin Beck. If you’ve seen 2014’s “Night-crawler,” you have an idea of the intensity that Gyllenhaal can bring to a role, and you definitely see glimpses of that here. His performances, not to mention his character’s abilities, were ab-solutely mesmerizing. After 23 movies, you might think the MCU would be running out of surprises, but the introduction of Quentin Beck proves Marvel still has more fascinating characters to bring to life. I don’t think there’s too much more to say. I guess if I had a minor nit-pick, it’d be that I felt the writing was a little weaker than the MCU usually is. I didn’t care for a few moments of dialogue, and a couple of plot points felt a bit too contrived, but it was never anything so terrible that it ruined the movie. At this point, if you’re already invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, checking this one out too is a no brainer. You’ll especially like it if you enjoyed “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” since both movies share a similar tone. Those expecting another epic galaxy sized slugfest like Infinity War and Endgame might leave a little disappointed, but most viewers seeking it out should leave satisfied. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is rated PG-13. *** The other movie this week is “Midsommar.” Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after a family tragedy keeps them together, a grieving Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. But what begins as a carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that render the pastoral paradise increasingly unnerving. Man oh man, where do I even begin with this movie? I think it’s fair to say I’ve seen a decent amount of horror movies in my time. Some are scary, most are at least a little unnerving, and a few are even nauseating at times. But the filmmaker behind this movie, Ari Aster, truly has a knack for the grotesque. If you watched his previous film, “Hereditary,” then you know what I’m talking about. Those looking for the typical scares of other horror movies should avoid Aster’s work at all costs. In fact, looking back, I don’t think “Midsommar” had a single moment I’d call frightening. But what it lacks in scares, it more than makes up for by being ridiculously disturbing. The creativity behind the disgustingness in this film is a sight to behold. To say it’s shocking doesn’t nearly do it justice. There are moments that are guaranteed to make you slack jawed and stunned. One of which was right at the beginning. And though there is a staggering amount of visceral gore in this film, some of the moments I found the most disturbing just involved this commune and their guests sitting around the dinner table. Then of course there’s the nudity. It’s really only during one sex scene, but there’s a lot of it. So much so the filmmaker had to battle with the M.P.A.A. (Motion Picture Association of America) just to avoid an NC-17 rating. That scene was likely the strangest sex scene I’ve ever seen in my entire movie watching career. I imagine that’s exactly what the filmmaker was going for, so kudos to him I guess. You might have noticed I haven’t said if I liked or disliked this movie so far, and it’s because I’m not really sure if I did or not. Is it a well made movie? Well to that I’d say yes. I loved how the film was shot. Lots of wide shots from far away, some clever framing with mirrors, and some unnerving psychedelic moments. I also like that this is one of the few horror movies I’ve seen where nearly every scene is brightly lit and clearly visible. That alone makes this film fairly unique. Honestly, I think the weakest part here is the story itself. Maybe I just wasn’t smart enough to piece it all together, but after a really compelling setup with Dani and Chris- t i a n and their crumbling relationship at the beginning of the movie, it didn’t really feel like the narrative did anything interesting with their characters, beyond throwing them in disturbing situations. If you’re just looking for shock value alone, the events of this movie are indeed shocking in many ways, yet it somehow felt noticeably less surprising than Aster’s last movie, “Hereditary.” Yes, what transpires here is deeply disturbing, but certain moments here definitely felt a bit more telegraphed. I guess that’s a negative since part of why I enjoyed “Hereditary” as much as I did was because around every turn I felt like I was being blindsided. In that movie I had zero idea what would happen next. But here, I always at least had a vague idea of what was coming. Regardless of how I felt though, the real question here is would I actually recommend this movie? And to that I’d probably say no to most people. Even to a large portion of horror fans. This is a slow burn, long movie, with absolutely none of the scares you typically see in horror films. At the same time, this is by far the most disturbing movie I’ve seen all year, and sure to be one of the most gruesome films of 2019. If that sounds like a good time to you, then by all means, you’ll probably like this movie just fine. Those looking for something a bit more conventional should probably avoid and watch “Annabelle Comes Home” instead. “Midsommar” is rated R.

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