Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Amazing. Spectacular. The ultimate. Web of, even.
I'm not going to call it my favorite Spider-Man movie, because there's some apples-and-oranges going on here. But it's exactly the Spider-Man movie that I needed right now. No origin story and not even any universe building. In fact, it's the opposite of universe-building, because the whole point is to explain why Spider-Man needs his own special corner of the MCU. And I love that the explanation is built on the phrase, "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man." It makes sense, it's what the character needs, and it's exactly where I want to see him go.
Also, what a great, funny, diverse cast of supporting characters. And Michael Keaton is brilliant. Best movie interpretation of a Spider-Man villain so far, and I'm not forgetting about Doctor Octopus.
Collateral Beauty (2016)
I was warned, but wanted to see it anyway. Here's a written review that told me what I was getting into. Here's a whole podcast episode. David Chen of the Slashfilmcast describes it as "morally reprehensible," which I have to admit made me even more curious to see it. Nor was I dissuaded by having the entire story described to me, beat by beat, twist by weird and ill-advised twist.
"Morally reprehensible" is probably too strong, because I'm not as convinced as Chen that the movie endorses the truly abominable behavior of Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, and Michael Peña's characters. But it certainly doesn't punish them for it either and it does seem super ignorant about just how awful they're being. That's the real problem with the movie: it's oblivious to the huge questions - both moral and logical - that it raises.
But great cast and Will Smith in particular is acting his ass off. It's a fascinating film to watch and try to figure out what happened to make it go so horribly, horribly wrong.
This is an adaptation of a 1926 play by the same name, which had already been made into a movie by Tod Browning in 1928 called West of Zanzibar, starring Lon Chaney and Lionel Barrymore. I've seen West of Zanzibar and it's good. Chilling, but good. 1932's Kongo is, too.
Walter Huston (Chaney, in the first adaptation) plays a cruel, truly evil ivory trader who's looking for revenge against an old enemy. His plans have been brewing a long time and involve luring his enemy's daughter (Virginia Bruce) into the jungle with a forged letter supposedly from her father. Once she's in the villain's power, he does horrible things to her both onscreen and off. It's hard to watch, frankly, but then things get interesting when a doctor (Conrad Nagel) - outcast from society presumably because he's an alcoholic - shows up. He wants to help the woman, but is challenged by his own weaknesses as well as her hopelessness and lack of cooperation. And then there are revelations that turn the whole thing upside down and introduce all new threats.
It's dark stuff, but crazy compelling. It covers some of the same themes as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, but I like it way more.
The Narrow Corner (1933)
Based on a novel by W Somerset Maugham, who was a popular writer of the '20s and '30s. He specialized in melodramas set on tropical islands, particularly ones about British people trying to adjust to island life. He was one of Ian Fleming's favorite authors and "Quantum of Solace" is an homage to Maugham's stuff.
I liked The Narrow Corner well enough. Douglas Fairbanks Jr is a handsome dude and looks great tooling around in island wear. Patricia Ellis is super cute, too, and I liked them as a couple. I wasn't totally invested in the shenanigans going on around them - conspiring to keep them apart - but the setting is great and well-photographed and there are some cool special effects involved in getting a boat over a dangerous reef.
Jam of the Week: "After the Disco" by Broken Bells
Hard to pick one song - of even a few songs - from Broken Bells' After the Disco album that I like better than the others. Usually after listening to a record this many times, I've whittled down the playlist to a handful that I still want to hear over and over again, but with After the Disco it's still the whole album. The title track is representative, though. Deeply infectious and pleasant pop.