Review: ‘Uncharted’ (2022), starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg

February 15, 2022

by Carla Hay

Sophia Ali, Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland in “Uncharted” (Photo by Clay Enos/Columbia Pictures)

“Uncharted” (2022)

Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, Boston, Spain and the Philippines, the action film “Uncharted” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A 25-year-old American man who’s had a longtime obsession with finding Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s legendary gold fortune teams up with two cynical art thieves—a middle-aged man and a woman in her 20s— to find this treasure.

Culture Audience: “Uncharted” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of stars Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, because their on-screen appeal is one of the few highlights of this messy and idiotic action flick.

Antonio Banderas in “Uncharted” (Photo by Clay Enos/Columbia Pictures)

Even by standards of suspending disbelief for far-fetched action movies, “Uncharted” is still a disjointed and disappointing mess that thinks it’s funnier and better than it really is. Not even the on-screen charisma of stars Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg can save this movie from being relentlessly moronic, with sloppily staged stunts, characters with cardboard personalities, and a storyline that often drags. Unfortunately, “Uncharted” is just another in a long list of movies based on video games that fail to improve on the video game in a cinematic way.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer, “Uncharted” starts off with an over-the-top stunt scene that’s an indication of the idiocy to come for the rest of the movie: Nathan “Nate” Drake (played by Holland), a 25-year-old adventurer, is hanging off of a string of cargo boxes held together by rope and dangling out of an airplane that’s high in the sky. Considering that Nate is not wearing a helmet for protection, and he doesn’t appear to be affected by the deadly wind velocity, you just know that “Uncharted” is going to be the type of movie where viewers will be rolling their eyes and asking themselves, “Are we supposed to believe that people could survive these stunts in real life?”

Nate (who is not a superhero with superhuman abilities) is able make leaps and bounds in the air, like he’s Spider-Man, a character played by Holland in other movies. Maybe the filmmakers of “Uncharted” think that just because Holland is Spider-Man in other movies, audiences are supposed to believe any human character that Holland plays in another movie can magically have Spider-Man-like powers too. It just makes this movie (and its visual effects) look even more absurd.

As Nathan bounces around and leaps unrealistically from box to box in the air, a red Mercedes 300 Gullwing suddenly starts barreling out of the airplane directly toward Nate. Someone then grabs Nate’s hand, but the movie then does a dissolve edit to show a flashback to 15 years earlier in Boston, when Nate’s older brother Sam grabs Nate’s hand to prevent him from falling from a building. In the last third of the movie “Uncharted” circles back to the airplane scene by showing what caused Nate to fall out of that plane.

In this flashback, 10-year-old Nate (played by Tiernan Jones) and Sam (played by Rudy Pankow), who’s about five or six years older than Nate, are breaking into a museum at night to steal what is purported to be the very first map of the world. The screenplay for “Uncharted” (written by Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway) is so shambolic, it never really explains why these two brothers want to steal this priceless art. Is it a prank? Is it to sell the map on the black market? Is it because they think they can keep the map like a trophy and are too stupid to know better?

Whatever their reasons are for this inept break-in, Nate and Sam are quickly apprehended by security guards. Nate and Sam are orphans whose parents have gone missing and are presumed dead. They are living in an orphanage run by Catholic nuns. Because Sam has been in trouble before, and now has “three strikes against him,” he’s kicked out of the orphanage and is expected to be held in a juvenile detention center. For whatever reason that’s never explained in the movie, Nate escapes any punishment.

Sam runs away from the orphanage the night before he’s supposed to be taken into custody. Before he leaves, Sam gives Nate his most cherished possession: a brass ring on a chain, as proof that he has an incentive to see Nate again. Sam tells Nate: “I’ll come back for you, Nate. I promise.” Nate hasn’t seen Sam in person since that night.

Nate and Sam are history buffs who are obsessed with the legend of a gold fortune hidden in the 1500s by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. As children, they planned for years to go looking for this treasure when they got old enough to do so. But this separation has put a big halt to those plans.

“Uncharted” then fast-forwards to the present day. Nate is now a bartender at a trendy lounge in New York City. He’s still a history buff who likes to spout trivia, such as who invented certain things and when. This type of knowledge doesn’t really impress a pretty blonde customer named Zoe (played by Alana Bolden), whom Nate flirts with one night when he’s working. She has this response: “You’re kind of weird, but you’re kind of cute too.”

The same night, after the lounge has closed, a customer sitting at a table refuses to leave. He introduces himself as Victor “Sully” Sullivan (played by Wahlberg), and he tells Nate that he wants to hire Nate for an adventurous job. Nate is suspicious, but he takes Victor’s business card, which lists Victor’s address, phone number and business title as “Private Acquisitions.”

Out of curiosity, Nate shows up unannounced to the address on the card. Victor is there, and that’s how Nate finds out that Victor collects valuable and historical artifacts, most of which are stolen. And that’s not all: Victor knows Sam, whom he says he hasn’t seen or heard from in about two years. “He ghosted me,” Victor says about Sam.

Victor is also interested in finding Magellan’s gold treasure, which is valued at about $5 billion. Victor has sought out Nate because Victor figures that Sam might have left some clues for Nate to find this treasure. Victor suggests to Nate that if they both team up to find the gold together, there’s a chance they’ll also find Sam. Does that make any sense? Of course not, but Nate goes along with it anyway, mainly because Victor has the money and resources to finance this trip.

But not so fast, Nate. Victor is skeptical that Nate has what it takes for some of the violence that’s sure to come with this job. Victor sees Nate as just a nerdy young guy who might be too sheltered and inexperienced to be an effective partner for Victor. And so, Victor wants Nate to pass a test.

There’s an upcoming auction of rare Spanish art from the Renaissance era. Victor’s plan is to steal a jewel-encrusted crucifix at this auction. And he wants Nate to be his accomplice. And this auction leads Victor and Nate to encounter the two chief villains in the story.

At the auction are two people who will stop at nothing to get this crucifix too. Santiago Moncada (played by Antonio Banderas) is a wealthy Spanish collector who’s the heir to a family fortune. But not for long, because Santiago’s father Armando Moncada (played by Manuel de Blas) has recently announced that he’s giving away the family fortune to charity. Santiago, who’s the head of the Moncada Foundation, is infuriated by this decision, but Armando remains unmoved by Santiago’s pleas to change his mind. “I should have cut you off years ago,” Armando tells Santiago with disgust.

The other person who’s at the auction to get the crucifix is a mysterious and shady mercenary named Jo Braddock (played by Tati Gabrielle), who wants to be called by her last name. Braddock used to be romantically involved with Victor, but he broke up with her. She’s very bitter about it, so there’s an extra reason why she wants to beat Victor at his own game. It’s briefly mentioned that when Braddock and Victor were romantically involved with each other, she was his partner in crime too.

The auction devolves into one of many of the movie’s ridiculous fight scenes, where people with weapons spend too much time trading insults when they could easily defeat their opponent by using the weapons. And even though Braddock has combat skills, she unrealistically defeats several armed people who are much taller and stronger than she is when they gang up on her in a group. In reality, anyone would be easily defeated when being the only person to fight a group of at least five or six armed and dangerous people.

Victor and Nate soon find out there’s someone else who wants the crucifix too. She’s a skilled thief named Chloe Frazer (played by Sophia Ali), who’s also looking for Magellan’s treasure. Victor already knows Chloe, since they’ve been rivals in previous art thefts. Predictably, Nate and Chloe have an instant dislike of each other, which turns into mutual attraction, which they try to fight/deny/suppress in a cliché “will they or won’t they get together” subplot. Nate and Chloe have a hard time trusting each other, since one of them could betray the other at any moment.

Victor, Nate and Chloe team up for a flimsy reason explained in the movie. Their shenanigans take them to Spain and the Philippines, two landmark destinations for Magellan’s voyage around the world. The villains are never far behind, of course. Santiago wants Magellan’s treasure too, because he claims it was stolen from the Moncada family. The bombastic and moronic fight scenes that would kill people in real life will have viewers wondering by the middle of the movie: “How are these characters still alive?”

Victor and Nate’s reluctant partnership just rehashes the over-used movie stereotype of “the grouchy older guy who’s annoyed with the eager younger guy, but they have to find a way to work together.” On the way to the auction that’s shown in the beginning of the movie, Victor ridicules Nate for chewing bubblegum at this black-tie, formal event. The bubblegum comes in handy though, when Nate uses it to prop open a door to a room that can only be accessed through an electronic system.

Victor keeps calling Nate a “kid” in a condescending manner, which gets very tiresome, very quickly. There’s a scene shown in one of the trailers for “Uncharted” where Victor has a newly grown moustache. Nate asks Victor, while pointing and grinning, “What is that thing on your face?” Victor replies, “Puberty’s right around the corner, kid. You can grow your own.” It’s more than a little ridiculous that Victor treats a 25-year-old Nate as if Nate is a pre-pubescent child, but that’s what you’re going to see while Victor and Nate exchange unfunny jokes that fall flat.

The movie also tries to have “cutesy” banter between Victor and Nate. An example is when Nate tells Victor during an action scene: “You can get shot in the head, or you can come down here for a cuddle.” Fortunately, the stale and witless dialogue between Victor and Nate isn’t in the majority of “Uncharted,” because there’s a long stretch of the movie where Nate and Chloe work together without Victor being around at all.

In addition to having cringeworthy dialogue, “Uncharted” has very phony-looking production design. Hidden tunnels and hidden caves that are supposed to show signs of rot and decay instead look like very polished and overly staged movie sets. This lack of authenticity is very distracting and just makes “Uncharted” look too glossy instead of being the gritty action flick that it should have been.

“Uncharted” takes a steep nosedive into stupidity with too many action scenes that would cause death or serious injuries in real life, but the characters barely show any signs of being affected. One of the worst is a scene where Chloe and Nate plunge deep into the ocean as a result of falling from high above in the air. When they emerge after being thrashed around by deadly waves, they have no injuries, their clothes are still fully intact, and Chloe still has full makeup on.

As much as Holland tries to inject some fun into his Nate character, Holland is just doing an older version of the teenage Peter Parker character that he plays in the “Spider-Man” movies. Wahlberg’s portrayal of Victor is just recycling the same sarcastic grump character that Wahlberg has played in dozens of other movies. Banderas hams it up as a generic villain, which is essentially a shallower version of the wealthy villain he played in the obnoxiously bad 2021 action flick “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.”

Ali’s portrayal of Chloe is adequate, but Ali is stymied by the filmmakers not letting Chloe be a fully developed person but just a character to do stunts and trade sardonic quips with Nate and Victor. Chloe tells a little bit of a backstory about herself to explain why she has a hard time trusting people, but this background information is literally a brief mention that seems like a half-hearted attempt to try give Chloe more depth. As for Gabrielle’s Braddock character, she has no depth at all and has some of the worst lines in this terrible movie.

“Uncharted” might satisfy people who have very low standards on what makes a good action film. Not all action films have to be completely realistic, but they should at least have coherent storytelling, an exciting pace and compelling characters. “Uncharted” has none of those qualities.

The characters are boring villains and superficial heroes. This horribly edited movie also tends to drag and get repetitive. An epilogue and mid-credits scene make it obvious that the “Uncharted” filmmakers want to make a sequel. “Uncharted” is such a horrendous dud, any plans for an “Uncharted” movie series should be left permanently off of the movie industry map, but good taste never gets in the way of filmmakers who want to make millions from churning out garbage movies.

Columbia Pictures will release “Uncharted” in U.S. cinemas on February 18, 2022.

Review: ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home,’ starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina and Marisa Tomei

December 14, 2021

by Carla Hay

Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

“Spider-Man: No Way Home”

Directed by Jon Watts

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the superhero action film “Spider-Man: No Way Home” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: After 17-year-old Peter Parker has been exposed as the alter ego of Spider-Man, he enlists the help of mystical superhero Doctor Strange to make people forget this secret identity, but Doctor Strange’s spell brings several allies and enemies back from various dimensions of the Spider-Verse. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of comic book movie fans, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” will appeal primarily to people who like nostalgia-filled superhero movies and who are fans of this movie’s star-studded cast.

Tom Holland and Alfred Molina) in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Just like an artist’s greatest-hits box set offered to fans who already own every album by the artist, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is best appreciated by people who’ve already seen all the previous “Spider-Man” movies. It’s filled with insider jokes that will either delight or annoy viewers, depending on how familiar they are with the cinematic Spider-Verse. Simply put: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is an epic superhero feast for fans, but it should not be the first “Spider-Man” movie that people should see. There are too many references to other Spider-Man movies that came before “Spider-Man: No Way Home” that just won’t connect very well with people who have not seen enough of the previous “Spider-Man” movies.

Fortunately for the blockbuster “Spider-Man” movie franchise (which launched with 2002’s “Spider-Man,” starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man), most people who watch “Spider-Man: No Way Home” will have already seen at least one previous “Spider-Man” movie. Maguire also starred in 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” and 2007’s “Spider-Man 3.” Andrew Garfield starred as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in two of the reboot movies: 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” and 2014’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Another “Spider-Man” movie reboot series began with Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, starting with 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and continuing with 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the third “Spider-Man” movie directed by Jon Watts and co-written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, the same writer/director team behind 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” There were six screenwriters (including Watts, McKenna and Sommers) for 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which was also directed by Watts. The trio of Watts, McKenna and Sommers for three consecutive “Spider-Man” movies has been beneficial to the quality of the filmmaking.

Each “Spider-Man” film that this trio has worked on truly does feel connected to each other, compared to other franchise films where different directors and writers often change the tone of the sequels, and therefore the sequels feel disconnected. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” also makes several references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which Spider-Man/Peter Parker (as portrayed by Holland) was a big part of, in his alliance with the Avengers. It’s another reason why it’s better to see previous Marvel-related movies with Spider-Man in it before seeing “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Because Spider-Man is Marvel Comics’ most popular character, you’d have to be completely shut off from pop culture to not at least know a few things about Spider-Man, such as he got his agility superpowers by accidentally being bit by a radioactive spider. Just like many superheroes, Peter is an orphan: His parents died in a plane crash, so he was raised by an aunt and an uncle. Even with knowledge of these basic facts about Peter Parker/Spider-Man, it really is best to see all or most of the previous “Spider-Man” films, because the jokes will be funnier, and the surprises will be sweeter.

Speaking of surprises, the vast majority of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has spoiler information. However, it’s enough to give a summary of what to expect in the first 30 minutes of this 148-minute film without revealing any surprises. The beginning of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” picks up right where “Spider-Man: Far From Home” left off: Peter Parker—an intelligent and compassionate 17-year-old student who lives in New York City’s Queens borough—has been exposed as the secret alter ego of superhero Spider-Man. The culprit who exposed him was the villain Mysterio (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), who’s seen briefly in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in the opening scene that shows the aftermath of this exposé.

All hell breaks loose, because Mysterio has twisted things to make it look like Spider-Man is a villain, not a hero. Peter and his girlfriend MJ (played by Zendaya) are caught in the middle of a crowded New York City street when Peter’s Spider-Man identity is exposed. And the backlash is immediate. Before getting into any harmful physical danger, Spider-Man puts his superhero skills to good use by whisking himself and MJ to safety.

However, the Department of Damage Control quickly detains Peter, MJ, Peter’s best friend Ned Leeds (played by Jacob Batalon) and Peter’s aunt May Parker (played by Marisa Tomei) for questioning. And who shows up to give some legal advice? Attorney/blind superhero Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil (played by Charlie Cox), who makes a very brief cameo. Matt says, “I don’t think any of the charges will stick. Things will get even worse. There’s still the court of public opinion.”

There’s not enough evidence to hold Peter and his loved ones in the interrogation rooms, so they go back home and ponder their next move. But how long can they stay safe, when people know where Peter lives and where he goes to school? Spider-Man has been branded as a troublemaker by certain people, such as fear-mongering journalist-turned-conspiracy theorist J. Jonah Jameson (played by J.K. Simmons), who no longer works as the editor of the Daily Planet newspaper. Jameson is now anchoring TheDailyPlanet.net, a 24-hour news streaming service.

However, Spider-Man is still a hero or an anti-hero to many more people. When Peter goes back to school the next day, he’s treated like a celebrity. Students surround him to take photos and videos with their phones. Faculty members fawn over him. Conceited and bullying student Flash Thompson (played by Tony Revolori), one of Peter’s nuisances at school, tries to latch on to Peter’s newfound fame by now claiming to be Peter’s best friend. Flash has already written a tell-all memoir to cash in on Peter’s celebrity status.

Peter, MJ (whose real name is Michelle Jones) and Ned are in their last year at Midtown School of Science and Technology. They have plans to go to the prestigious Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT) together after they graduate from high school. But due to their high-profile brush with the law, the three pals are worried about their chances of getting into MIT.

This hoped-for MIT enrollment becomes the motivation for Peter to go to fellow New York City-based superhero Doctor Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) to ask for his help. Peter wants Doctor Strange to cast a spell so that people will forget that Peter is really Spider-Man. Doctor Strange is reluctant, but he gives in to Peter’s pleading. As Doctor Strange is casting his Spell of Forgetting, Peter interrupts several times to tell Doctor Strange to exempt some of Peter’s loved ones (such as MJ, Ned and May) from the spell.

Doctor Strange is extremely annoyed, so he cuts the spell short and is able to contain the spell’s powers in a cube-sized box. But some damage has already been done: The spell has opened the multi-verse where anyone who knows who Peter Parker can be summoned and go to the dimension where Peter is. And some of these individuals are villains from past “Spider-Man” movies. Doctor Strange gives Peter/Spider-Man the task of capturing these villains to imprison them in Doctor Strange’s dungeon that looks like a combination of a high-tech jail and a mystical crypt.

The return of some of these villains has already been announced through official publicity and marketing materials released for “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” so it’s not spoiler information. These villains are:

  • Norman Osborn/Green Goblin (played by Willem Dafoe), from 2002’s “Spider-Man”
  • Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus, also known as Doc Ock (played by Alfred Molina), from 2004’s “Spider-Man 2”
  • Flint Marko/Sandman (played by Thomas Haden Church), from 2007’s “Spider-Man 3”
  • Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard (played by Rhys Ifans), from 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man”
  • Max Dillon/Electro (played by Jamie Foxx), from 2014’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” has some other surprises, some of which have already been leaked to the public, but won’t be revealed in this review. A few other non-surprise characters in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” include Doctor Strange’s portal-traveling sidekick Wong (played by Benedict Wong), as well as Harold “Happy” Hogan (played by Jon Favreau), Tony Stark/Iron Man’s loyal driver who is now taken on minder duties for Peter. In “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” Happy and May had a fling that ended. Happy fell in love with May and wanted a more serious romance with her, so he is still nursing a broken heart about it in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

The movie’s action sequences are among the most memorable in “Spider-Man” movie history, in large part because of the return of so many characters from the past. A lengthy part of the movie that takes place on the Statue of Liberty will be talked about by fans for years. Because so much of “Spider-Man” relies heavily on people knowing the history of this movie franchise to fully understand the plot developments and a lot of the dialogue, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” will probably be a “love it or hate it” film.

The movie’s mid-credits scene directly correlates to the mid-credits scene for 2021’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.” And the end-credits scene for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” features a glimpse into the world of Doctor Strange. People should know by now that movies with Marvel characters have mid-credits scenes and/or end-credits scenes that are essentially teasers for an upcoming Marvel superhero movie or TV series.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” has some wisecracking that seems a little too self-congratulatory, but those smug moments are balanced out with some heartfelt emotional scenes. And all the jumping around from one universe dimension to the next might be a little too confusing to viewers who are new to the Spider-Verse. Some people might accuse “Spider-Man: No Way Home” of overstuffing the movie with too much nostalgic stunt casting as gimmicks. However, die-hard fans of the franchise will be utterly thrilled by seeing these familiar characters and will be fully engaged in finding out what happens to them in this very entertaining superhero adventure.

Columbia Pictures will release “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in U.S. cinemas on December 17, 2021.

Review: ‘Onward,’ starring the voices of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland

March 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt) in “Onward” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar Animation Studios)

“Onward”

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Culture Representation: Taking place in a magical world (where almost everyone has an American accent), the main characters of the animated film “Onward” are mythical creatures, but there are some human characters with minor supporting roles.

Culture Clash: A recurring theme in the movie is the conflicts between modern customs versus the magical customs.

Culture Audience: “Onward” is a family-friendly movie that will appeal to anyone who likes an adventurous and heart-warming story.

Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt) in “Onward” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar Animation Studios)

“Onward,” the first original film from Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios since 2017’s “Coco,” won’t be winning any Oscars as “Coco” did, but it’s a solid animated film that will be a crowd-pleaser for people of various generations. The movie (directed by Dan Scanlon who wrote the screenplay with Keith Bunin and Jason Headley) spends most of the film as a Pixar version of a video game. The story is simple and straightforward, involving the main characters doing a series of challenges to get to a coveted treasure item. It isn’t until the last 15 minutes that “Onward” packs an emotional punch that shows the movie is a little deeper than a typical animated film.

In the beginning of the movie, which is narrated by teenage elf Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland), viewers learn that the world he lives in used to be filled with magic. But then modern technology took over, and magic became a antiquated custom that has been forgotten by numerous people in the world.

Ian lives with his kind and loving mother Laurel Lightfoot voiced by Julia-Louis Dreyfus) and his goofy older brother Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt). Laurel, who is a widow, has a “good guy” boyfriend named Colt Bronco (voiced by Mel Rodriguez), a centaur police officer. Ian and Barley’s father Wilden Lightfoot (voiced by Kyle Bornheimer) died when Ian was a bay and Barley was about three years old. Ian is about to turn 16, while Barley is 18 or 19. (His mother Laurel mentions that Barley is taking a “gap year.”)

Barley isn’t in school and he doesn’t seem to have a job, so he spends a lot of time at home being the kind of brother who often annoys Ian, who is studious and socially awkward. The two things that Barley is passionate about the most are his beat-up purple van that he’s named Guinevere and his encyclopedic knowledge of historical traditions in magic that hardly anyone around him seems to care about.

Barley also seems to be living in a “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”/”Wayne’s World” time warp, because he dresses and acts like a playful metalhead, just like those movies’ characters of Bill and Ted and Wayne and Garth. Guinevere is also decked out like something out of the late ’80s/ early ’90s, with the bumper stickers to prove it. Ian is often embarrassed by Barley, because he thinks of himself as intellectually superior to Barley, whose behavior is sometimes like a hyper puppy.

In one scene that shows the tension between the two brothers, Ian has worked up the nerve to ask some of his classmates to his upcoming 16th birthday party. He’s delighted when they say yes. But when Barley shows up at Ian’s school, he embarrasses Ian so much that Ian tells his classmates that the party has been cancelled. What Ian doesn’t tell his classmates is he doesn’t want them to be around Barley, who would be at the party.

For Ian’s birthday, he gets a wizard’s staff that his father Wilden had set aside for Ian to get specifically when Ian turned 16. He uses the staff to make a wish to bring his father back to life for 24 hours. But something goes wrong during the spell, and only the lower half of Wilden’s body (from the waist down) has come back to life. The upper half of his body exists but is invisible.

And so begins Ian and Barley’s race against time to find the magical item that will fully transform Wilden Lightfoot back to his normal self. The item that has the power to do that is a rare, mystical gem that’s hidden. For most of the film, Ian and Barley go off on a frantic quest to find the gem in time before their father disappears when the sun comes up. Just like a video game, they have to complete a challenge to get to the next level in the puzzle that will led them to the gem.

Along the way, they meet a lively group of characters, most notably the sassy Manticore (voiced by Octavia Spencer), also known as a restaurateur named Corey. She’s the owner of Manticore’s Tavern, where she has gone to reinvent herself as a “respectable” member of society after having a wild past. Ian and Barley also encounter a biker gang of pixies that clash with the two brothers.

Meanwhile, the story takes on a “Weekend at Bernie’s” vibe when Ian and Barley have to dress the upper half of their father’s body, including making him wear sunglasses, so that they can see him better. Ian and Barley lead him around by a leash-like belt that’s wrapped around his waist. At times it looks a little creepy, but it’s all played for laughs. In his half-body state, Wilden can’t see or talk, but apparently he can hear sometimes. It’s a plot hole that has to be overlooked in order to enjoy this movie.

The visual effects in “Onward” are perfectly fine and much better than most animated films. But compared to other Pixar movies (such as the Oscar-winning “Toy Story” movies, “Up,” “Finding Nemo,” “Inside Out” and “The Incredibles”), “Onward” is on the lower end of the quality scale. And although “Onward” covers a lot of the same ideas that other “race against time” fantasy/adventure stories have done before, near the end of the film, one of the brothers does something slightly unpredictable that affects how he feels about his family. It’s a tear-jerking moment that a lot of viewers won’t see coming. And it wouldn’t be a Pixar movie if there isn’t a scene that’s meant to make people cry.

Disney/Pixar Animation Studios released “Onward” in U.S. cinemas on March 6, 2020.

UPDATE: Because of the widespread coronavirus-related closures of movie theaters worldwide, Disney will make “Onward” available on digital and on Movies Anywhere, as of March 20, 2020, and on the Disney+ streaming service, as of April 3, 2020.

Review: ‘Dolittle,’ starring Robert Downey Jr.

January 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Robert Downey Jr.  and parrot Polynesia (voiced by Emma Thompson) in “Dolittle” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“Dolittle”

Directed by Stephen Gaghan

Culture Representation: Set primarily in the United Kingdom, this dramatic adventure movie’s live-action characters are nearly all white; the voice actors portraying the animated animals are a racially mixed cast; and the social classes range from working-class to royalty.

Culture Clash: A reclusive doctor with the special power to talk to animals reluctantly goes on a journey to find a rare medical cure, and faces obstacles that include more than one villain.

Culture Audience: “Dolittle” will appeal primarily to fans of children-oriented entertainment who don’t mind if the visuals are much better than the storytelling.

Dab-Dab the duck (voiced by Octavia Spencer), polar bear Yoshi (voiced by John Cena), parrot Polynesia (voiced by Emma Thompson), Dr. John Dolittle (played by Robert Downey Jr.), ostrich Plimpton (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), Tommy Stubbins (played by Harry Collett) and gorilla Chee-Chee (voiced by Rami Malek) in “Dolittle” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

It’s not really a good sign when a major-studio film headlined by an A-list movie star is released in January, the month that’s a notorious dumping ground for bad movies. Universal Pictures must have known that “Dolittle” was going to be a dud, even with star Robert Downey Jr. coming off his major hot streak in the blockbuster superhero “Avengers” and “Iron Man” movies. (“Avengers: Endgame,” Downey’s 2019 movie that was released before “Dolittle,” now holds the record as the world’s biggest box-office movie hit of all time, ending the 10-year reign at the top held by “Avatar.”) “Dolittle” isn’t a terrible film. It’s just a terribly generic film in an era when we’ve been bombarded with kids-oriented movies that have talking animals.

By making “Dolittle” an action-adventure film, “Dolittle” director Stephen Gaghan, who wrote the screenplay with Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, tried to do something different from previous “Dolittle” movies. The original 1967 “Dr. Dolittle” film, starring Rex Harrison and a cast of other Brits, was a musical adapted from Hugh Lofting’s “Dr. Dolittle” book series. The three “Dr. Dolittle” movies from 1998, 2000 and 2006 were slapstick American comedies—the first two starred Eddie Murphy as the title character, and a third film was an ill-conceived flop starring Kyla Pratt, who played Dolittle’s daughter in the first two Murphy-starring films.

Gaghan’s “Dolittle” goes back to the original United Kingdom location, during the mid-1800s era of a young Queen Victoria (played by Jessie Buckley), who has come down with a mysterious illness. During the film’s animated opening sequence, viewers see that veterinarian John Dolittle once led a happy life taking care of animals with his beloved wife Lily (played by Kasia Smutniak), who died tragically.

Fast forward seven years later, and Dr. Dolittle has become a cranky hermit who has neglected his hygiene (he’s so unkempt that a mouse has been living in his beard), as he lives with his animals on his estate that’s essentially an animal sanctuary. The filmmakers have made Dolittle a Welshman, so it might take a while for some viewers to getting used to hearing Downey speak in a Welsh accent that sounds a little too pretentious for a movie where most of his co-stars are animated talking animals. This is a kids’ movie, not Shakespeare.

Tommy Stubbins (played by Harry Collett), a boy from the small village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, is an orphaned misfit who lives with his aunt and uncle. Tommy loves animals, and is therefore uncomfortable when he’s forced to go hunting with his uncle. When Tommy accidentally shoots a squirrel while hunting, he decides to take the injured animal to the mysterious Dr. Dolittle, even though the doctor has a reputation for being a curmudgeon. Instead of being afraid of Dolittle’s menagerie of wild animals, Tommy is fascinated and finds out that he has a knack for communicating with animals too. Affected by Tommy’s presence, Dolittle cleans himself up, as he notices that Tommy sees him as a role model and possible mentor.

It isn’t long before Dolittle gets another visitor: Queen Victoria’s attendant Lady Rose (played Carmel Laniado), who arrives with orders to bring Dolittle to Buckingham Palace to give medical aid to the queen. Dolittle has a big incentive to save the queen’s life, because his property has been loaned to him by the queen, and if she dies, he will lose the property.

While at the palace, Dolittle has an awkward reunion with a former school rival: royal physician Dr. Blair Müdfly (played by Michael Sheen), who is jealous of Dolittle’s talent and acclaim. Müdfly is such an over-the-top villain that he practically twirls his moustache and gnashes his teeth. And there’s another antagonist in the story: the ambitious Lord Thomas Badgley (played by Jim Broadbent), who will inherit the throne if Queen Victoria dies. (At this point in her life, Victoria is not married and has no children.)

Dolittle determines that the best cure for the queen’s life-threatening illness is fruit from the Eden Tree on Eden Tree Island, because this fruit is said to have magical powers. (How biblical.) Tommy has essentially decided that he doesn’t really want to go home, so he tags along on Dolittle’s voyage, with Dolittle’s numerous animals in tow as they set sail on a ship called the Water Lily.

Now, about the animals. The problem with “Dolittle” is that there are too many of them in this film. If you’re someone with a short attention span, good luck trying to keep track of all the talking animals. The “Madagascar” movies (another animated series with a variety of wild animals that talk) worked so well because the animals were in a relatively small group and their personalities were so distinct. In “Dolittle,” the personalities of most of the animals tend to blend together in a crowded mush, with the notable exception of the parrot Polynesia (voiced by Emma Thompson), a dutifully efficient assistant/caretaker with a whip-smart attitude. Polynesia holds a special place in Dolittle’s heart because the parrot used to be owned by Dolittle’s late wife Lily.

The other animals in this mixed-bag menagerie are Chee-Chee (voiced by Rami Malek), an insecure gorilla; Dab-Dab (voiced by Octavia Spencer), a maternal, scatterbrained American Pekin duck; Plimpton, a nervous osctrich (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani); Yoshi (voiced by John Cena), a polar bear who hates the cold, loves adventure, and often bickers with Plimpton; Betsy (voiced by Selena Gomez), a kind giraffe; Kevin (voiced by Crag Robinson), the injured squirrel that was accidentally shot by Tommy and who has a cheeky sense of humor; Tutu (voiced by Marion Cotillard), a fearless fox with leadership qualities; and Mini (voiced by Nick A. Fisher), a baby sugar glider that’s constantly curious.

Meanwhile, other talking animals include brainy dog Jip (voiced by Tom Holland), a long-haired Lurcher tasked with guarding the queen; Humphrey (voiced by Tim Treloar), a whale that helps navigate the Water Lily; James (voiced by Jason Mantzoukas), a nervous dragonfly; Barry (voiced by Ralph Fiennes), a Bengal tiger with mommy issues and a grudge against Dolittle; Don Carpenterino (voiced by David Sheinkopf), the leader of an ant colony; Army Ant (voiced by Matthew Wolfe), Don’s sidekick; and Dragon (voiced by Frances de la Tour), guardian of the Eden Tree.

As for other human characters, there’s also Pirate King Rassouli (played by Antonio Banderas), who lives on Monteverde Island, one of the stops along the way to Eden Tree Island. Banderas hams it up as yet another adversary to Dolittle and his crew. Large ensembles can work for well-written, live-action films geared to adults. But when it’s a mostly animated film geared to kids, the movie can come across as too cluttered for its own good.

“Dolittle” certainly has an impressive cast of acting talent. It’s too bad that so many of the characters are bland. Furthermore, Chee-Chee (the gorilla that’s a visual standout) is a missed opportunity, since the character was miscast for its voice. Malek sounds more like the minature “Frozen” snowman Olaf than a massive gorilla. The Chee-Chee character needed an actor with a deeper voice to better reflect the gorilla’s intimidating physical presence. Former wrestling champ Cena, who’s the voice of Yoshi the polar bear, would have been better in the role of Chee-Chee.

Although the characters in this movie are very underdeveloped, the compelling visual effects (overseen by visual effects supervisors Nicolas Aithadi and John Dykstra) are the most entertaining aspect of the film. Young children who are dazzled by visuals should enjoy “Dolittle” for the movie’s colorful ambiance, even if they won’t remember most of the movie’s animal characters weeks after seeing this film. (Don’t expect there to be a high demand for “Dolittle” toys.) More mature viewers might get easily bored with this movie, because it wallows in a lot of mediocrity that wastes this talented cast.

Simply put: “Dolittle” is not the kind of movie that people looking for high-quality entertainment will rush to see multiple times while it’s in theaters. We all know how this movie is going to end anyway.

Universal Pictures released “Dolittle” in U.S. cinemas on January 17, 2020.

 

 

 

2018 ACE Comic Con Arizona: ‘Captain America’ and ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ stars confirmed to attend

October 5, 2017

"Captain America" star Chris Evans and "Spider-Man: Homecoming" star Tom Holland
“Captain America” star Chris Evans and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” star Tom Holland (Image courtesy of ACE Universe)

The following is a press release from ACE Universe:

Chris Evans, star of the worldwide hit “Captain America” movie franchise, and Tom Holland, who portrays Spider-Man in the Marvel hits “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Captain America: Civil War” are headlining the new ACE Comic Con Arizona at Gila River Arena, Jan. 13-15, 2018.

ACE Comic Con Arizona is a division of ACE Universe, a newly launched experiential events company created by brothers Gareb and Stephen Shamus.  With 20 years of experience and 175 Comic Con shows under their belts, the brothers are creating a new immersive experience that looks to redefine the industry and break the mold of the linear Comic Con business.

Along with Evans and Holland, other confirmed guests include Sebastian Stan (The Winter Soldier – “Captain America”), Anthony Mackie (The Falcon – “Captain America”), Hayley Atwell (Agent Peggy Carter – “Captain America”), Laura Harrier (Liz – “Spider-Man: Homecoming”), and Jacob Batalon (Ned – “Spider-Man: Homecoming”).  More guests will be announced soon, including superstars from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

VIP Admissions, Photo Ops and Autographs are on sale now at www.aceuniverse.com.  General Admission Tickets can be purchased online at Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com) starting at 10 a.m. PST on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Additional ticketing information also can be found at www.aceuniverse.com.

“When we first went to Gila River Arena, we knew we had found the right home for our next big event,” said Gareb Shamus, ACE Universe Chairman and CEO.  “We believe the fans will fall in love with this new style of Comic Con and we can’t wait for everyone to enjoy everything the weekend will have to offer, which includes the opportunity to watch all of the can’t-miss programming on the arena Jumbotron.”  ACE Universe has secured an exclusive Marvel Comic variant cover to Captain America #495, drawn by Good Charlotte lead guitarist and illustrator Billy Martin.  This book is exclusive to box office buyers and VIPs.  Martin will be on hand all three days to sign the books, which feature Captain America and Spider-Man, in an homage piece of art to the great Todd McFarlane. 

ACE Universe also has partnerships across key sectors including technology, media, entertainment, gaming, publishers, manufacturers, licensors and retailers to help create a robust experience for fans.

Additionally, ACE Universe will be the first to provide FREE global live streaming to fans with wall-to-wall coverage of the entire Comic Con.  Now, all fans can enjoy access to top-tier talent, breaking news and on-site programming as every aspect of the show will be fully streamed, social media friendly, and available on mobile devices.

Chris Evans, Tom Holland and the casts of both films are global box office stars that provide fans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and greet with their favorite super heroes,” said Stephen Shamus, President of ACE Universe.  “When you listen to the fans, these are the stars that are most requested, so securing the main cast members from both Marvel franchises makes this a can’t miss weekend.  We also haven’t forgotten the WWE fans, some of the most excitable fans in the world.”

ACE Comic Con Arizona is the second of the new ACE Comic Cons, with the debut event set to take place at NYCB Live:  Home of the Veterans Memorial Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY, Dec. 8-10.  In addition to these two shows, ACE Universe will announce more 2018 dates, cities and ticket information at www.aceuniverse.com and on the ACE Comic Con social channels at Facebook.com/acecomicon or @acecomiccon on Instagram and Twitter.

ABOUT ACE UNIVERSE
ACE Universe (www.aceuniverse.com) is a New York-based media and experiential events company founded by Gareb and Stephen Shamus, who are the world’s most experienced producers of Comic Con conventions.  Stephen has personally produced over 175 Comic Con events, booked thousands of celebrity guests, and played host to millions of happy fans.  Gareb is a leading pop-culture expert, founder of the largest Comic Con tour in the world, an original producer of national Comic Cons, and publisher of multiple award-winning magazines published in 75 countries worldwide.  ACE Universe produces premium events in world-class venues that feature the best of Film, TV, Gaming, Virtual Reality, Collectibles, Comics, Original Art, Toys, Action Figures, Graphic Novels, Illustrators, Writers, Creators, and Entertainment Programming.  Fans can live stream all ACE Universe events at www.aceuniverse.com and engage with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

November 3, 2017 UPDATE:

(“Captain America” star Chris Evans, Stan Lee and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” star Tom Holland Image courtesy of ACE Universe)

The following is a press release from ACE Universe:

Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, world-renowned comic book writer and former publisher of Marvel Comics, has been added to the star-studded lineup for ACE Comic Con Arizona, which will take place Jan. 13-15 at Gila River Arena in Glendale.

Lee is known as the creative force behind Marvel Comics and was a co-creator for numerous popular Marvel characters, including Spider-Man.  He also is credited with re-launching Marvel’s Captain America in the 1960s.

“We are committed to bringing fans the best of the best guests, and today’s announcement reinforces this commitment,” said Stephen Shamus, President of ACE Universe. “Stan Lee is an iconic figure, and having the opportunity to take a Photo Op with his superhero creations come to life – Captain America & Spider-Man (Chris Evans & Tom Holland), will create a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Taking a Photo Op with all three will be a truly historic moment.”

Lee will be available for dual photo opportunities with Captain America (Chris Evans) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), as well as a triple photo opportunity with both characters together.  Additionally, Lee will be doing solo photo opportunities and autograph sessions, and take part in a panel discussion which will be live streamed to fans around the world.

Lee also will participate in “Comic Con” night at the Arizona Coyotes – Edmonton Oilers game on Friday, Jan. 12, the night before the kickoff of ACE Comic Con Arizona.  Lee will be on hand to drop the puck to start the game, and a variety of other ACE Comic Con Arizona artists and vendors will be available on the concourse for autographs signings and merchandise sales.

ACE Comic Con Arizona officials announced one additional change to the weekend lineup.  Hayley Atwell (Agent Peggy Carter – “Captain America”), who was scheduled to appear both Saturday and Sunday, will now only appear on Sunday as she booked a role in a play. All Saturday ticket holders with VIP packages, photo ops or autographs including Hayley will be notified via email with instructions on how to exchange tickets for Sunday, or to get a refund.

ACE Comic Con Arizona is a division of ACE Universe, a newly launched experiential events company created by brothers Gareb and Stephen Shamus.  With 20 years of experience and 175 Comic Con shows under their belts, the brothers are creating a new immersive experience that looks to redefine the industry and break the mold of the linear Comic Con business.

 

Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton and ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ team reboot a classic superhero movie franchise

July 7, 2017

by Carla Hay

Spider-Man Homecoming photo call
Michael Keaton, director Jon Watts, Tony Revolori, Zendaya, Tom Holland, Laura Harrier, Robert Downey Jr., producer Kevin Feige, Marisa Tomei, producer Amy Pascal and Jacob Batalon at the New York City press junket for “Spider-Man”: Homecoming” (Photo by Kristina Bumphrey)

The “Spider-Man” movie franchise is now in its third incarnation. And when it comes incorporating other major characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the third time is the charm, because “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (directed by Jon Watts) is the first time that Marvel Studios has teamed up with Sony Pictures to bring other MCU characters such as Iron Man to a “Spider-Man” movie.

The “Spider-Man” franchise started with the original 2002 “Spider-Man” movie (starring Tobey Maguire as the web-slinging superhero), which spawned two sequels. In 2012, Andrew Garfield took over as Spider-Man (whose real identity is nerdy high-school student Peter Parker) for two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies. Now, in 2017, Tom Holland stars as Spider-Man, a role that Holland also played in Marvel Studios’ 2016 blockbuster “Captain America: Civil War.”

In “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Spider-Man is being mentored by Iron Man/Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.), who often grows impatient with the over-eager Peter, who’s ready to rejoin the Avengers in their mission to fight crime worldwide. For now, Peter is stuck in high school in New York City’s Queens, where his social life revolves around his best friend, Ned Leeds (played by Jacob Batalon), and fellow members of the school’s debate team, which includes the sarcastic Michelle (played by Zendaya), competitive Flash Thompson (played by Tony Revolori) and “cool kid” Liz (played by Laura Harrier), who is Peter’s secret crush. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” also stars Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture (the movie’s chief villain) and Marisa Tomei as Peter Parker’s Aunt May.

At the New York City press junket for “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Holland, Downey, Keaton, Harrier, Batalon, Zendaya, Revolori, Watts and producers Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige (who is also president of Marvel Studios) gathered for a press conference. This is what they said.

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

How excited are you to finally bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Feige: It was one of a handful of, “Well, this will never be possible but let’s dream about it moments” at Marvel studios … Having made the movie, it’s unbelievable. It’s incredible.

Pascal: It is incredible. It started with a lunch with me and Kevin, and I can’t believe we’re here now. It’s pretty exciting,

Director Jon Watts (far left) with cast and crew on the set of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Jon, the biggest challenge  was to not only make a fresh standalone movie but to make one that does fit into the MCU and does capture a unique tone that is delightful and hilarious. What were some of the challenges of capturing all those thins while staying true to the legacy of Spider-Man?

Watts: Well, I just tried to approach it as the biggest fan possible and the opportunity to finally put Spider-Man where he belongs in the Marvel universe, really just opened so many doors to all of the new kinds of stories we could tell. So if anything I felt like we were being as true as possible as anyone has ever been able to be about Spider-<an and how he fits into this world.

Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Tom, with great power comes great responsibility. What kind of responsibility did you feel playing a character that so many people love?

Holland: I think the thing that I had to remind myself most when I took on this character was that Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man had such a huge impact on me as a kid. He was my role model growing up; he was my favorite character. So I had to remind myself that I’m going to have that same impact on kids of the younger generation. So I really wanted to do them proud, and be a solid role model for them to make a young, fresh version of the character we know and love so well.

The question that Jon and I asked ourselves was, “If you gave a 15-year-old superpowers, he would have the time of his life. And when I made this movie, I had the time of my life, so it really comes across on screen.

Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Robert, you’re like the godfather of the MCU. How do you feel about the way the MCU has evolved but expanded to now include the likes of Spider-Man?

Downey: Well firstly, I’m stoked that they got my memo to design the screening room like an old Miami Dolphins jersey. So that worked out. But Amy and them had done these iterations of Spider-Man previous. They really should do one of those breakdown,  kind-of-boring-to-read-but-somewhat-important books about all the miracles that had to had to happen for us to be sitting here today … This turned out so well. It really comes down to, as Kevin says, “You’ve got to see the movie and love it. “This turned out so well. I saw it, I was in it for a little bit, but I loved it. I think that’s what’s exciting is that they’re still really working.

Michael Keaton in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Michael, the thing about Adrian Toomes/Vulture in this film is that his motives are grounded because he’s motivated by wanting to help his family. What were your impressions when you signed on to this film, in terms of Vulture’s motives?

Keaton: I thought it was inventive and an interesting way to go. I’m not really familiar with a lot of the lore, so for me, I was trying to catch up. I just thought the simplicity of making this person approachable, it’s timely. Let’s not talk about why it’s timely, ’cause I want to blow my brains out.

Downey: He’s only threatening his own life right now.

Keaton: I thought it was a really unique approach and kind of obvious to make this person approachable and has a legitimate gripe and a legitimate argument. I thought it was really well-written. It was a fun gig.

Marisa Tomei and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Marisa, it seems like a fun gig for you as well. What was your take on playing Aunt May as completely different from what we know about the character?

Tomei: I didn’t really know what Aunt May looked like until after I signed up. I couldn’t understand why my agents kept saying to me “They’re going to make her sexy.” “Ugh, stop trying to coddle me. Oh, in contrast of another way to go.” These guys had this vision of how it would be revamped and everyone was going to be younger and she’s his aunt by marriage, so she can be any age at all.

Jacob Batalon and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Jacob, how do you feel about people reacting so well to your Ned character and his friendship with Peter?

Batalon: I’m not going to lie. I knew this was going to happen. Tom and really enjoy each other, and the cast and I enjoy each other, so it was easy to translate that into what you saw. I love them. I love all of them so much. It’s easy to be around them, and it’s easy to make the best things with them.

Zendaya at the Los Angeles premiere of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Zendaya, what was it like to make a big film like this one?

Zendaya: It was incredible. I’ve done a lot of things in my little career so far, but this is my first big movie, so I was terrified, but I suppressed it very well. It’s amazing to be here. I think all of us feel like it’s a bit of a dream. I don’t know when it’s going to feel real, but it definitely doesn’t feel real right now. I don’t mind living in this dream. I enjoy it here, so I think I’m going to keep doing it.

Downey: When the opening numbers come in, it gets real.

Laura Harrier and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Laura, why do you think out of all the superheroes, Spider-Man means the most to people?

Harrier: Because I think he’s the most relatable. We all know what it’s like to grow up and go to high school and go through growing pains and have awkward moments of talking to someone you have a crush on. It’s harder to connect with superheroes who are completely outside of our world, I think. Spider-Man is first and foremost Peter Parker, whom everyone can relate to.

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Jon, Spider-Man’s costume is the most high-tech we’ve ever seen. What were the challenges of keeping true to the Spider-Man mythology while evolving things in a way that it makes sense for 2017?

Watts: I got kicked off rather nicely by what the Russo brothers did in “[Captain America:] Civil War.” They had this really great premise that Peter Parker is going to get plucked out of obscurity by Tony Stark, given this really high-tech suit, and then get taken on a crazy adventure, and then dropped back into his regular life without another thought. So, to me, the challenge was an opportunity. If Tony Stark built a Spider-Man suit, what could it do that would be so amazing? There’s a little bit of precedent in the comics with the Iron Spider suit that gets built, so we used that as inspiration for all the bells and whistles that Tony would put into this thing.

Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and director Jon Watts on the set of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Tom, can you talk about your experience going from the movie “The Impossible,” when most people first discovered you, to how you got to this place in your life?

Holland: I’ve been so lucky in my career. I felt like I’ve been in the right place at the right time at every turn. I’ve been so lucky I’ve got to work with I would consider the best of the best and learn from people. Every movie has been a different experience for me. I’ve been able to play different characters without having to go too far. Now I’ve now finding myself to go a little bit further. This job since day one has been a rollercoaster. It has never ceased to amaze me.It’s the job that keeps on giving.

The fact that I’m here with these guys promoting this movie is insane. Like Zendaya said, it does not feel real in any way possible. I read a comic yesterday that is based off my face. I mean, what the hell! Nothing has sunk in. Nothing has sunk in. It feels like I’m about to wake up and be very disappointed. But I’m very happy here, and I can’t wait for you guys to see the movie.

Laura Harrier, Tom Holland and director Jon Watts on the set of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Robert, when we we asked Tom and Jacob if they could take anything from the set, Tom said he would take your Audi and Jacob said he would take your watch. How do you feel about that and what would you take from the set?

Downey: I’m sorry, which Audi and which watch? You know why I think this works? There’s something about the initial breaking the story and the concept. Whatever the mood board was for this movie, with all those different tones, it was creatively inspired. It’s really an inspired re-invention.

And what I would take is that moment where the creatives actually broke this story and said, “That’s it.” If it’s executed correctly, that’s what you see on the screen. And that’s why I love movies. I’m a huge fan of movies, and I always wondered, “How did they figure it out to entertain me this well?” The mood board!

Michael Keaton, Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. at the Los Angeles premiere of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Robert and Michael, since you know what it’s like to star as superheroes in blockbuster movies, what advice would you give o the younger members of the cast on how to deal with all the media scrutiny and fan love that comes with being in these types of films?

Downey: Every day you wake up, everybody’s even. All of this status or experience is all kind of a projection … It really comes down to, “Does [the director] like us? Does he think we know what we’re doing?” It’s all about having your feet on the ground, and realizing that you always start at zero MPH every day.

Keaton: I don’t have anything to say [to the younger cast members]. I’m listening to what these people are saying, and so far it’s impressive. Let’s keep an eye on them, but so far, they sound like pretty sane folks.

Zendaya, Tony Revolori, director Jon Watts and panel moderator Scott Mantz at the New York City press conference for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Kristina Bumphrey/Starpix for SPE)

Tony, what was it like to work on this movie with a character that is so well-known to fans around the world? And can you compare it to working on a movie like Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”?

Revolori: It’s wonderful working with someone like Wes. He’s amazing and fantastic. But working on a project like [“Spider-Man: Homecoming”] is on a different level because you have so many fans and so many people who work so hard and put so much effort into it, you can’t help but want to do a good job. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it with a great cast. Thank you to Jon, Amy and Kevin for casting a 5’8″ brown guy to play a 6’2″ blonde, blue-eyed guy. Thank you.

Tony, how does it feel to represent the Latino community in this comic-book franchise?

Revolori: It’s wonderful. I think when you see the film, there’s not a single line of exposition to explain why I look the way I look. I think that’s wonderful. I just am in the movie. It’s not about being a certain race or doing anything. That’s the kind of diversity we need in Hollywood right now.

Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Michael Keaton, Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Tony Revolori, director Jon Watts and  panel moderator Scott Mantz at the New York City press conference for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Kristina Bumphrey/Starpix for SPE)

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” has one of the most racially diverse casts in a superhero movie. What was the inspiration for having such diversity?

Pascal: The inspiration was reality.

Downey: Our last resort!

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Tom and Jon, what challenges would you like to see Spider-Man overcome in any future MCU movies?

Holland: I’m still getting over the first one.

Watts: I honestly try to think about this stuff one movie at a time, but I do feel like now that Spider-Man is part of this big, crazy universe, we can definitely tell some new stories, that’s for sure.

Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. at the Los Angeles premiere of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Steve Cohn/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Tom and Robert, how would you say Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s relationship with Tony Stark/Iron Man has evolved since “Captain America: Civil War”?

Holland: I think the relationship between the two of us is more important from [Iron Man’s] point of view because he suddenly has someone to think about other than Tony Stark. He really cares about Peter, and one of the reasons why he doesn’t want Peter to become an Avenger is because he really doesn’t want the responsibility of something happening to Peter on his conscience. It’s a nice back-and-forth of [Spider-Man] saying, “Look, I’m powerful enough to be an Avenger,” and [Iron Man] saying, “But you’re not ready to be an Avenger.” It’s like a big brother/little brother. dad/son type of situation.

Tom Holland (second from left) at a Sony Square NYC fan event for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in New York City (Photo by Marion Curtis/Starpix)

What do you hope teenagers will learn from watching “Spider-Man: Homecomng”?

Batalon: Our message is that you don’t have to be the jock, you don’t have to be the cool person in high school to be yourself. The coolest version of yourself is yourself. We’re nerds, and we love to be smart, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself.

Harrier: You don’t have to apologize for who you are. Everyone in this movie is so different, but genuinely themselves, especially Zendaya’s [Michelle] character, who is very different but not ashamed of it. If teenagers could take that away, it would be great.

Zendaya in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Zendaya, how much was your portrayal of Michelle inspired by Ally Sheedy’s character in “The Breakfast Club”?

Zendaya: Definitely inspired. I didn’t know what kind of character I was playing until I showed up. Everything is kind of top-secret. So I read the script, and I was like, “Okay, she’s interesting.This is going to be fun.” Then i met with Jon, and he had so many different references, and [Ally Sheedy in “The Breakfast Club”] was definitely one of them.

Just kind of making that distinct character, making somebody that I think is different, and embracing the weird. Like what we were talking about: Young people, it’s okay to be weird. It’s okay to be exactly who you are. I love that [Michelle] is outspoken, I love that she says what everybody’s thinking, but she just doesn’t care. I think a lot of young people should have that a little bit more. It was fun playing that dry version of myself.

Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon ((center) at a “Spider-Man: Homecoming” fan event in Singapore. (Photo by Ore Huiying/Getty Images for Sony Pictures)

Who was the biggest clown off set?

Holland: Jacob.

Batalon: I don’t think this is a good interview right now.

Holland: The amazing thing about Jacob is that he wrapped on the movie, he finished filming his part in the film, and he just moved in with me. It’s like, “Jacob, go home!” He lived with me and my best mate for six weeks.

Batalon: You’re talking as if you didn’t want me there.

Holland: We did want you there. [He says jokingly] And then we fell in love.

Batalon: It’s been great ever since. Don’t worry about it.

Executive producer Louis D’Esposito, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland and producer/Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige at the Los Angeles premiere of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Robert, how does it feel playing Tony Stark as the connective tissue across so many Marvel films?

Downey: What happens is that things are presented to me that are really well-thought-out by folks who have been doing this correctly for a really long time. And I just go “check,” and then I attempt to take the credit at press conferences. [He says jokingly] I’m holding this whole thing together. It’s obvious!

Logan Marshall-Green and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Chuck Zlotnick)

Tom, how did you gymnastic and dance background help you in doing your stunts?

Holland: You can’t really master hanging upside down. It’s not something I really prepared for. But my dancing and gymnastic background was so helpful to the project because we were able to do things as Peter Parker that they probably hadn’t been able to do in the past. But with that said, sometime they would over-estimate my skill set. Jon would be like, “Can you back-flip off of that wall and land on that beam?” I’m like, “No, Jon. I can’t do that. I’m not that good, dude.”

Watts: You forget that you’re not actually Spider-Man sometimes.

Michael Keaton, Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. at the New York City press junket for “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo by Kristina Bumphrey)

Robert, did it feel like you were passing the torch to Tom Holland? And how long do you think you’ll keep doing Marvel movies?

Downey: I’ve been semi-retired since “Iron Man” opened in its first weekend. Speaking for myself, good things happen, and then you get inflated and you think, “Oh my God, I’ve created everything that’s going my way.” And then things happen, where you’re like, “Okay, there’s a little evidence to the contrary.” At this point, you go back and say, “It’s nice to be on this call sheet.” So as you can see, I’ve changed dramatically, and I’m an extremely humble individual.

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Can you consider doing more “Spider-Man” movie scenes on location in Queens?

Watts: As much Queens as possible. For sure.

Keaton: In terms of getting action in Queens … Robert, you and I have gotten action in Queens in 2001, I think.

Downey: Yeah, we kept a flat there for a while. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

A scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Michael, you’ve played both the hero (Batman} and a villain (Vulture) in a superhero movie. Which one do you prefer?

Keaton: They’re both fun. I think actors tend to drawn to villainous characters. It’s a cliche, but it tends to be often true that you want to delve into the dark side. It gets interesting. The reality is the lead [actor] or hero by very nature of the piece has to be not one-dimensional but has to represent a thing very strongly, whereas the supporting characters are more dimensional, without going into bullshit actor talk. It tends to be true.

Most of us have had experiences where you’re playing one role, and you’re looking at some of those minor roles, and you think, “Oh, man, I’d like to have a bite of that,” because it’s just so much fun. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to play a lot of different things: little tiny parts, big parts. They’re both fun. They’re both different. It’s more iconic, and you make a hell of a lot more dough being the big lead guy, but they’re both fun.

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