Spider-Man: No Way Home

Tom Holland’s third solo outing as Marvel’s Spider-man is a typically slick and enjoyable piece of blockbuster fun which throws plenty of super-powered red meat to hardcore fans and offers sufficient popcorn entertainment to a general audience.

Picking up directly from the end of the previous adventure, 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, which ended with the teenage Spider-man having his secret identity as high school student Peter Parker being exposed to the general public by the media.

This has a dire impact on the lives of his girlfriend MJ and his best friend Ned, a pair once more played with believable camaraderie by Zendaya and Jacob Batalon. And in time-honoured fashion Spider-man has to make a decision which will affect the lives of all those he loves in order to save the world.

In desperation Peter Parker asks Benedict Benedict Cumberbatch’s wizard, Dr Strange, to cast a spell to make everyone forget Peter Parker, and for a moment veers towards being a web-spinning riff on Jimmy Stewart’s festive classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, or a lycra-clad version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

But as a rogues gallery of super-villains appears from Spider-films of Christmas past this feels as if its a live-action remake of 2018’s deliriously brilliant and Oscar winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a film often directly and obliquely referenced.

But No Way Home lacks Spider-Verse’s dazzling ambitious visual virtuosity, and the CGI in the frenetic action sequences is mostly of a standard rather than an eye-popping quality, and the climactic threat is surprisingly undeveloped and ill-defined.

Produced by Sony in association with rival studio Disney who own the rights to Marvel’s other Avengers, No Way Home makes a virtue of its ability to extract every lucrative drop of creative blood from the spider-stone, as well as definitively placing various previous Marvel properties within the MCU, which would seem to be No Way Home’s raison d’être.

But lip service only is paid to pitting the fatalism of Dr Strange against the optimism of Spider-man, and the script almost immediately shies away from discussing any of the interesting ideas it flags up, preferring to rattling along in a shower of meme-able moments and fan-pleasing cameos.

The late Marvel supreme Stan Lee would no doubt have approved of the treatment of diseased immigrants pointedly arriving at the Statue of Liberty and the ahem, stark choice offered to our heroes is to ‘kill or cure’ them.

But the film takes this pressing real world political issue, condenses it to a soundbite and then cracks wise about it, as if it’s embarrassed about having let the real world intrude on Hollywood. I’m not sure why, as every other world seems to be invading at this point.

The perils of instant celebrity is a perfect topic for this films target audience that’s also quickly discarded. Instead of a debate we’re given J. Jonah Jameson, the former editor of the tabloid newspaper The Daily Bugle, who’s now reduced to a clickbait-chasing and hate-spouting online anger merchant. Jameson is played by J. K. Simmons whose energetically aggressive performance, Jameson is a one-joke bogey-man in a film which really doesn’t need another one.

Holland remains an engaging screen presence and ​shares a palpable on-screen chemistry with co-star and real-life partner, Zendaya, a situation which adds a further depth to a story filled with self-aware jokes, multiple universes and duplicate characters.

With her deft talent and burning charisma Zendaya proves once again she’s the MVP of this Spider-verse, which is quite the thing in the company of Jamie Foxx, Benedict Wong, and Alfred Molina.

However MJ spends most of her time as half of a comic duo with Ned and therefore duplicating each other’s contribution to the plot. Were it not for MJ offering a path to redemption for a side character, MJ’s value would be more or less reduced to ‘love interest’, a shameful waste of Zendaya’s talent.

If Zendaya doesn’t get to play a spider-powered hero at some point it will be a huge injustice, not least as so many other actors seem to be getting a turn. How telling is it of Marvel’s priorities Ned is offered a glimpse of future character development and MJ isn’t?

Elsewhere Marisa Tomei as Peter’s Aunt May gets a more substantial role than merely being asked to to flirt with Jon Favreau’s ‘Happy’ Hogan, Peter Parker’s surrogate dad.

Holland’s third stand alone adventure as Spider-man means the actor has racked up one more film than previous web-slinger Andrew Garfield, and as many as Tobey Maguire, the Spider-man before him. At one point we’re told Spider-Man is seventeen years old, an age which even the ever-youthful Holland is now struggle to convince at playing.

If it wasn’t for Holland’s undeniable and understandable popularity, one might fear for his future in the role, especially as this ends with another great reset of the status quo, allowing considerable wriggle room should anyone’s future salary demands are deemed excessive.

Nevertheless, fans will lap up No Way Home which is at times highly enjoyable and by degrees funny, action-packed and heartfelt, and I doubt any casual cinema goers will feel short-changed.

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Read my review of Disney’s fabulous 1954 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, HERE


Cert 15 Stars 3

The latest of the Warner Bros. animated superhero adventures brings one of Batman’s most notorious stories to dynamic life as the replacement Robin the Boy Wonder, an orphan called Jason Todd, is kidnapped by arch villain The Joker.

The comic book series on which it’s based used a telephone readers’ vote to decide whether Todd lived or died, and in it’s honour this has various alternate versions of the story to entertain.

Also includes four short stories featuring Sgt. Rock, Adam Strange and more. Fun but not for the little ones.


Cert 12 Stars 3

I’m much more of a Batman than Superman fan, but I enjoyed this typically fast paced and action filled thirty-ninth film in in the Warner Bros. animated series.

Young Clark Kent is an intern at the Daily Planet newspaper working alongside ace reporter Lois Lane and yet to adopt his famous costume or even the name Superman.

When a snarling alien bounty hunter called Lobo arrives with violent intentions, the Man of Steel has to team up with future arch-enemy Lex Luthor and leap into action faster than a speeding bullet to save the world. Not for the little ones.



Cert 15 Stars 3

Older fans of DC Comics’ sword-wielding anti-hero will enjoy this action-packed and blood-splattered animated adventure, drawn in the same anime-inspired style as the other DC Animated Movies from Warner Bros.

Slade Wilson AKA, Deathstroke, is a one-eyed former soldier with enhanced strength and fighting abilities, and fearsome adversary of the Teen Titans and Superman’s Justice League.

Wilson’s secret past catches up with him when his young son is kidnapped by the terrorist group H.I.V.E., meaning Wilson has to risk everything he has on a violent rescue mission. Definitely not for the little ones.

BIRDS OF PREY (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Cert 15 Stars 4

Girl power is given a badass makeover in this freewheeling foul-mouthed superhero action comedy, whose double identity is as a raucous relationship breakup party for the social media generation.

Led by Margot Robbie’s gloriously anarchic Harley Quinn, it sees a flock of assorted women, such as Ella Jay Basco’s young pickpocket, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s vigilante, Rosie Perez’s cop and Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s super-powered nightclub singer, in pursuit of a missing mafia diamond.

Harley Quinn was first introduced in 2016’s mostly rubbish but wildly successful super-villain adventure, Suicide Squad, but as its standout character, fully deserves this stand-alone spin-off romp.

The now ex-girlfriend of Batman’s arch enemy, the Joker, a heartbroken Harley is struggling to embrace independence and recognise her own self-worth.

The film takes place in an alternative timeline to Joaquin’s Phoenix’s BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated version of Joker, and the clown prince of crime is only very briefly glimpsed.

Without the Joker’s protection Harley is now a target for Gotham City’s underworld, not least Ewan McGregor’s enjoyably camp master criminal, Black Mask, who also wants the diamond.

Robbie is a blast as she pours heart, soul and in-your-face attitude into her character, creating a brilliantly spontaneous and irrepressible modern update on Marilyn Monroe’s sweet and sexy screen persona, complete with a nightmarish spin on her famous song and dance number, ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.

Harley talks directly to the camera as the story flashbacks and zips forward, with director Cathy Yan throwing out the leering camerawork of Suicide Squad in favour of a hyperactive grab-bag of graphics and fun-filled acrobatic action, including a breathless and brilliant rollerskating finale.

Yan and Robbie dress the thin plot as a ‘this is my life’ Youtube-style confessional video, albeit one with Hollywood production values, and once you’ve adjusted to the manic tone and the story kicks in, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Imagine an alternative Spice Girls movie, but one bursting with the character and charisma of talented performers at the top of their game and a far superior soundtrack.

Funny, irreverent, violent, trashy and a celebration of sisterhood with an unmissable message of female empowerment, it’s an irresistible rainbow riot of popcorn fun.

The 3 minute video top 10 box office countdown


Cert 12A 129mins Stars 4

You won’t believe what you’re seeing in this comic book action adventure as Spider-man hits the high spots in a deliciously deceptive head-spinning romp.

A direct sequel to blockbuster smash, Avengers: Endgame, this is a mischievous mix of sweet high school romcom, fun teenage spy caper and exciting superhero CGI spectacular.

Peter Parker is in romantic pursuit of classmate MJ, on their school’s European vacation, when his costumed alter-ego Spider-man learns heroes don’t get holidays. 

Grumpy secret agent Nick Fury teams Spider-man with superhero Mysterio, which will be a surprise to long-time Spidey fans as Mysterio is one of the web-swinger’s best known arch-villains.

But re-inventing Mysterio as a dimension-hopping hero with a tragic past makes him a more interesting character while also tying this version of Spider-man into last year’s animated Multi-verse adventure.

Parker identifies Mysterio as the man to replace Iron Man as his mentor, and they set about battling the Elementals, extra-dimensional giants with power over air, earth, wind and fire.

Returning with a winning chemistry as Peter Parker and MJ, Brit actor Tom Holland and pop star Zendaya are the beating heart of the film, with her self-contained charisma making MJ the best superhero squeeze since Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane, in 1978’s Superman.

And they’re reunited with the key young cast members of Spider-man: Homecoming, and Marvel fan favourites such as Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau and Marisa Tomei reprise their roles as the adult guardians.

Indie movie star Jake Gyllenhaal brings his unique brand of loopy intensity to Mysterio, and while he often gives the impression of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, it’s a useful quality to have when playing a guy trying to save the planet.

Having Parker unveil various old and new Spider-suits is part of a stream of call-backs to previous films, which will have fans cooing in delight.

Plus a pair of fat-rimmed hi-tech spectacles are a knowing wink to Michael Caine’s 1960’s spy, Harry Palmer, and neatly magnify the script’s central concerns.

While the film wears the frothy air of an espionage caper, the tone disguises some very serious thoughts about fake news and multi-media manipulation, while reminding us Parker was employed in other incarnations as a photojournalist.

From dealing with the fallout of Endgame to deciphering what Marvel has in store for Spider-man, there’s a lot to uncover in this, and one of the best secrets is kept until after the credits, so make sure you stay until the absolute end.


Cert 12A Stars 4

Magic and monsters cause mayhem in this terrific crowd pleasing superhero romp which doubles as a body swap comedy

This confident seventh instalment in the increasingly lighthearted, bright and colourful, DC Extended Universe, takes place in same world as the recent billion dollar success, Aquaman, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the king of Atlantis to turn up.

Billy is a teenage orphan who while searching for his mother, finds himself endowed with extraordinary powers and unlooked for responsibility.

Following an encounter with a wizard, whenever Billy says the magic word, ‘Shazam’, he’s magically transformed into an adult superhero, with strength, speed and the ability to shoot electric bolts from his fingertips.

Asher Angel is fresh faced and likeable as 14 year old Billy, with an exuberantly gleeful and goofy Zachary Levi, as his super-powered alter ego.

The script owes a lot to Tom Hanks’ 1988 comedy, Big, and pays homage to it during a fight in a department store, while the films energy has the wide-eyed excitable tone of 1980’s kid caper, The Goonies.

As Billy learns to control his powers, the warm family dynamic of his diverse foster family provides an strong emotional grounding. It’s here we meet Faithe Herman, as Billy’s new sister, a delightful pocket-sized scene stealer who’ll win your heart with her charm and humour.

Packed with jokes, this is funnier than Deadpool and has more laughs than Kick Ass, plus it’s also much kinder and far more appropriate for a family audience.

Brit actor Mark Strong played the bad guy in Kick Ass, and appears here as a super-villain who’s hunting Shazam to steal his powers, and is involved in all the flashy CGI action such as magic realms, scary demons, and mid-air fights.

Yet Shazam!’s greatest strength is knowing superheroes were created as a wish fulfilment fantasy for lonely adolescents, and is all the more enjoyable for putting them centre stage.


Cert 12A 134mins Stars 4

Marvel studios aren’t pussyfooting around with this big beast superhero adventure.

First seen in 2015’s Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman returns as Prince T’Challa A.K.A. Black Panther.

Back in his African homeland of Wakanda to inherit his father’s throne, T’Challa’s enhanced physical abilities and meteorite-powered suit are of little use against a political coup.

Full of trademark humour this is a typically action packed blockbuster. What separates this from its comic book stablemates is its sweeping multi-generational family saga played out on gorgeous plains of Africa.

Bright bold colours dominate the African influenced design, the soundtrack is tribal and local languages are used, all combining to create an environment unique in the Marvel universe.

Providing African American cast and crew a major Hollywood movie as a stage to strut their stuff is a huge roar for equality and demonstrates the extraordinary depth of talent available.

Among the cast are Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o and Forest Whitaker, plus Brit nominated Daniel Kaluuya appears in a key role. Though it’s young Letitia Wright who steals the film.

Ryan Coogler previously directed 2015’s excellent Rocky sequel, Creed. Michael B. Jordan had the starring role there and brings his muscular swagger here as the villainous Killmonger.

Similarly to the Amazons of Wonder Woman, the women are warriors, but also scientists, and are frequently funnier than the men.

There are witty riffs on Disney’s Lion King. While an early interlude in a South Korean featuring a casino and a car chase cheekily presents T’Challa as a James Bond figure, which is sure to wind up the 007 purists.

And it politically unambiguous with Wakanda being a progressive vision of Africa, wealthy, independent, strong and united.

Unlike the recent reboot of Spider-man who had Robert Downey. Jnr’s mega popular Iron Man popping by to boost audience figures, Black Panther has to go it alone.

But this cool cat more than earns his stripes.


Cert 12A 120mins Stars 4

Wonder Woman whips the boys into heroes in this epic and action packed comic book spectacular.

Fresh from her own blockbuster success, the Amazonian Princess joins Ben Affleck’s Batman in recruiting The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman to save the world.

Despited differing degrees of reluctance, they don’t stand a chance under the onslaught of Gal Gadot’s charm offensive. As  the lasso of truth-wielding Wonder Woman, the actress is the team’s most valuable player with Ezra Miller running her a close second, as The Flash.

This superior final part to Henry Cavill’s Superman trilogy follows on from last year’s overlong and doom laden Batman Versus Superman, which saw the death of the Man of Steel.

As the world mourns and turns to hopeless violence, a large horned monster descends at the head of an army of flying man-sized insectoid warriors.

Voiced by Ciaran Hinds, Steppenwolf is intent on seizing ancient three cuboid power sources with which he plans to destroy the Earth.

Picking up speed after a clunky opening, there’s a reduction in the series’ grim bombastic mood and overrides it with plenty of optimism and a greater sense of fun. There’s a change on emphasis from tortured martyrdom to a more crowd pleasing and uplifting tone.

Despite production difficulties a consistent vision has been adhered to throughout the three films. Characters have developed and matured, ideas of duty and sacrifice have been explored, and it goes out with a bang.

Always visually spectacular, the dark palette of previous films is punched up with colour, while John Williams’ famous original 1978 Superman score is sampled. It sends tingles down the spine, and signals a new dawn for truth and justice.

In this determinedly inclusive adventure unity is urged at every opportunity, however Wonder Woman is the star of the show and very much remains in a league of her own.



Cert 12A 130mins Stars 3

Gods and monsters battle for interstellar supremacy in the latest Marvel superhero adventure.

It’s a rainbow coloured bridge connecting the Earth-bound adventures of Marvel’s Avengers, to the sci-fi comedy of their Guardians of the Galaxy movies. 

Chris Hemsworth has previously played Thor endearingly dimBut here the Norse God of Thunder is disappointingly transformed into a generic action hero. He’s shorn of his blonde locks, is relieved of his trademark magic hammer and is noticeably more clever than before.

Thor continues his established rivalry with The Incredible Hulk, with the pair forced into gladiatorial combat an alien planet.

It’s ruled by Jeff Goldblum’s gangster, meanwhile Cate Blanchett sports goth fetish chic as the goddess of death, and Tom Hiddleston reprises his role as Thor’s half-brother Loki.

There’s are a stream of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos, infantile bickering and a juvenile delight in swearing.

Marvel fans will love the endless in-jokes and there’s sufficient CGI action to keep casual viewers reasonably entertained.