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In the picture

The latest MCU instalment, Spider-Man: Far From Home takes viewers on a fun, if a tad unexceptional, ride; horror flick Annabelle Comes Home is enjoyable but inessential.

In the picture

Spider-Man: Far From Home***

*ing: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei, and Jake Gyllenhaal

Directed by Jon Watts

The Marvel Cinematic Universe moves on sans its biggest superheroes as the events of Endgame continue to cast a shadow on the franchise. Picking up the pieces is Spider-Man who returns for his second solo outing in Far From Home, a movie that sends the web-swinger on another adventure while trying to make sense of a post-Blip world without Iron Man and the Avengers.

The film finds the unsnapped Peter Parker (Tom Holland) going through his hormonal teenager phase and pining over his crush MJ (Zendaya). Exhausted from his superhero duties and looking forward to a school trip, Peter hopes to confess his feelings to MJ during their visit to Europe. But his plans are interrupted when danger arrives in the form of the Elementals, monstrous forces hell-bent on destroying the world.

A caped new hero, who is given the name Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), also emerges and starts working with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his associates – including Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders; criminally underutilized, as always) – to defeat these massive threats.

Fury wants the reluctant Peter to step up and fill the void left by the demise of his mentor Tony Stark, and gives him the glasses that Stark left for his successor, which are equipped with artificial intelligence and have access to Stark’s technology and weaponry.

Torn between living the life of a teenager and shouldering the responsibilities of saving the world, Peter – with a little help from Happy (Jon Favreau) who is interested in Peter’s aunt May (Marisa Tomei, clearly aging in reverse) – must figure out what he wants as he battles his latest adversaries.

TNS-INTHEPIC-2Stark’s legacy looms large over Far From Home, and Spider-Man isn’t really given a chance to step out of Iron Man’s shadow. Despite some amazing visual sequences, the action aspects feel rote and don’t deliver much in terms of excitement since you’re never in any doubt about how things will eventually unfold. A twist in the middle particularly lacks the element of surprise because of the reputation of the character who provides it.

But while this sequel may pales in comparison to Sony’s recent Spider-Man outing Into the Spider-Verse (2018), Far From Home is still a fun, energetic episode that manages to keep you entertained from start to finish.

Holland is, once again, terrific in the lead role and carries the film charmingly, while Gyllenhaal makes a great Mysterio.

Spider-Man: Far From Home may not do anything exceptional, but it does help the MCU carry on post-Endgame. Fans of the franchise will not be disappointed.

 

Annabelle Comes Home**1/2

*ing: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga, and Patrick Wilson

Directed by Gary Dauberman

TNS-INTHEPIC-1The Conjuring Universe has spawned its seventh instalment, continuing the tale of the possessed Annabelle doll in supernatural horror thriller Annabelle Comes Home.

Paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) bring home the malevolent doll that is a beacon for spirits and lock her in a sacred glass case in their artefacts room. A while later, they go off on an overnight investigation and leave babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) to care for their daughter, Judy (the always wonderful Mckenna Grace), who is lonely and being bullied at school because of scepticism about her supposed demonologist parents.

While Mary Ellen is babysitting Judy, the former’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife), who is dealing with a loss, arrives uninvited at the Warrens’ home, curious about the rumours she has heard about the family, and ends up freeing Anabelle from her glass prison.

A host of evil spirits are then unleashed and start haunting the three young girls as well as Mary Ellen’s love interest Bob (Michael Cimino) who shows up at the house hoping to woo her.

The film takes its small core cast, each member with their own inner conflicts, and then puts them in a claustrophobic setting swarming with supernatural entities.

TNS-INTHEPIC-4Beyond that it doesn’t do much else. Its simplicity works in its favour by making the environment intense and sharp, but also makes the proceedings a bit slow and repetitive. At points, the movie feels like it’s just plodding along and struggling to turn the spooks into scares.

Still, the third Annabelle movie manages to keep viewers engaged, thanks in no small part to the competence of its young actresses. And even though he doesn’t try anything particularly inventive here, first time director Gary Dauberman does manage to build tension and effectively makes the proceedings suspenseful.

Ultimately, it may not be essential viewing, but Annabelle Comes Home is still watchable. If you decide to skip it though, you won’t be missing much.

 

Rating system:  *Not on your life  * ½ If you really must waste your time  ** Hardly worth the bother  ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only  *** Good enough for a look see  *** ½ Recommended viewing  **** Don’t miss it  **** ½ Almost perfect  ***** Perfection

Sameen Amer

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