Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Heavily indebted to Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman's excellent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Jon Watt's multi-dimensional pile-up, Spider-Man: No Way Home, employs the same reality-bending as its animated predecessor - not to mention the current Marvel streaming shows - to give this increasingly disconnected sub-series (as well as long-time executive producer Avi Arad) a victory lap. In doing so, No Way Home batters Tom Holland's likeable take on Peter Parker out of his moneyed comfort zone to re-establish a balancing act minted in a previous Spidey phase. The film abandons the overloaded technological wish-fulfilment - that saw Spider-Man subordinated into the role of Iron Man's teenage ward - to push at the working class ache that underpinned Sam Raimi's take on the character. No Way Home drags in adversaries from these Raimi films, as well as the two Marc Webb instalments that followed, as a way to brute force Holland's Parker through this conceptual shake-up. 

No Way Home is a piecemeal experience. Strange highlights - imported from different films and deployed to wrinkle recognition - struggle to exert themselves on a whole that seems to be either thrashing around in the midst of an onscreen identity crisis or simply holding the Spider-Man character to ransom ahead of the next round of financier negotiations. Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin is an obvious but under-explored delight though. The character's trajectory built around the tensions of a personality split that, unfortunately, we barely see overlap. Still, even if No Way Home doesn't apportion enough screentime to Osborn to manufacture a believable - or even trackable - sense of mounting disquiet, the film does remember that the action in the first Spider-Man's was defined by a deeply personal strain of violence. While the weight that Watts and his screenwriters (Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers) heap on their hero never comes close to matching the face-swelling welts that Raimi dished out, Holland does get to play murderous rage: punch after punch, hammering down on the teeth of a clearly ecstatic Goblin. For a series of films in which (comfortably) billions of people have died, the motivational power of pure hatred is a note that has been largely absent. 

Hotel Pools - Vital

Weird, Weird Dog by Dood

Harry Nilsson - Without You

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Gemini Drive - Remember

The Comics Journal - Fist of the North Star Volumes 1-4

Jumped at the chance to write about the first four volumes of Viz's recent Signature releases of Fist of the North Star for The Comics Journal. If you're not familiar with Buronson and Tetsuo Hara's series, expect muscular messiahs battling for supremacy in the ruins of the twentieth century. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Pitched as a belated continuation of Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, David Blue Garcia's Texas Chainsaw Massacre - itself the ninth entry in this petrol-powered series - betrays little understanding of the original masterpiece as anything other than a vehicle for a stylised ogre to murder young people. Legendary Pictures' approach then is similar to the increasingly disconnected Friday the 13th sequels; a vague idea of continuity that, in truth, has been boiled down to the recurring threat generated by looming musculature with an affinity for power tools. Garcia's film - screenplay credited to Chris Thomas Devlin with story credits going to Rodo Sayagues and producer Fede Álvarez - also finds a couple of spare minutes to lift the avenging final girl conceit underpinning the recent refresh of the Halloween franchise. Sally Hardesty, the only survivor of the 1974 incident, has bounced back from what looked like a lifelong catatonic episode to show up, mid-mulch, for an unsatisfying third-act fumble. 

Although no big shakes themselves, David Gordon Green's films do at least apportion a significant amount of their run-time to understanding the damage experienced by their heroines. Comparatively, this Massacre goes out of its way to snub Olwen Fouéré's take on Sally, reducing her to a clumsy emissary of the Remington Arms company. Largely contrived and mechanical in its execution, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre does manage a healthy thrum when we are allowed to see Leatherface rattling around in his private moments. One bystander, as they struggle to free themselves from a totalled police van, witnesses Bubba violently reclaiming the motherly mask intrinsically linked to his atrophied super-identity. Back in the home that has sheltered him in the intervening decades, a different victim watches as this killer attempts to process loss by staking a claim on his warden's clothing and make-up. These scenes are as close as Massacre number 9 gets to the trophy gathering predilections of Ed Gein, the necrophiliac body snatcher who served as inspiration for Hooper's nightmarish classic.