Spider-man: No Way Home – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina. Directed by Jon Watts. Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. Length: 148mins

After a Covid affected shoot and postponed release dates, the fans finally flocked to cinemas to see whether the long awaited third instalment of our present day Spider-man lived up to the hype. No Way Home seemed to have heaps of extra pressure piled onto it’s release, fired by casting rumours, teaser trailers that made the most restrained Marvel fan squeal and of course, the long wait to finally see the film released. Fear not, as per the ‘Active Spectator way’, this will be an spoiler free review, so if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s safe to continue reading…

So, the end of the second film ended with the big reveal – that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. That was the perfect springboard to start the third film with high energy, allowing the audience to focus in on what was to come. From here we see the issues that Peters fame brings, how it impacts his life and the lives of those around him, which leads to him approaching Dr Strange in the hope that he would cast a spell which would cause people to forget that he was Spider-Man. The spell doesn’t go quite to plan and we see from the trailers that some familiar villains come crashing into Peters world, and a multiversal drama ensues… 

The plot is full on. We have action, humour and heartbreak around every corner and, even if an audience member wasn’t a full blown fan, I think it would be difficult to not enjoy. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is so endearing, he’s funny and Holland does such a great job in committing to the character that he’s built. Even though he’s been Spider-Man for years now and has appeared in several films within the MCU, Holland really maintains the fresh, youthful feel of the character, which at this point in his Spider-Man career, could easily slip. This film is so full of talent, you can’t even comment on them all. Every single cast member brings it, the nostalgia of seeing the familiar faces has such a power on an audience; particularly around a film with such a committed fan base. It would be easy to allow sloppy writing when playing the nostalgia card but I don’t think that was the case, everything fit with the atmosphere that they created. 

One thing that is worth commenting on, is the ‘moment’ that a lot of audience members find themselves, known as ‘Superhero fatigue’. The feeling that we’ve just had SO many superhero films thrown at us over the last few years, taking away some of the initial excitement and wonder that the earlier films brought. If that is how you feel, then maybe you need to take a break and come back to this one. It’s full of everything you might expect and relies on an audience that has kept up to date with all of the previous films and TV series…you need to go in to this with a level of anticipation and openness for accepting what it is.

I’ll be honest, I went into this film a little bit hesitant. I was aware that so many people had such high expectations and I was nervous that it would completely miss the target. I didn’t need to worry. Spider-Man: No Way Home hits all the right notes, both as a part of the MCU as a whole, and within it’s own little Spider-Man world. Full of emotional beats, witty one liners and stellar performances, I would go as far as saying it’s one of my favourite Marvel films so far. With concerning news headlines around Covid back in the limelight, it’s a perfect opportunity to step into your imagination, escape from the real world and support your local cinemas. 

Last Letter From Your Lover – Review

Rating: 12A Cast: Shailene Woodley, Joe Alwyn, Felicity Jones, Nabhaan Rizwan and Callum Turner. Directed by Augustine Frizzell Written by Nick Payne, Esta Spalding and Jojo Moyes (based on the book by) Length: 110mins

Last Letter From Your Lover, a 2021 release based on the book of the same name, promises a good old fashioned romance switching between two timelines which focusses on two different couples. Boasting an array of established young talent, it’s bound to attract the attention of any romance fans. 

The film begins in 1965 in London, as socialite Jennifer Stirling (Woodley) returns home from the hospital. It’s clear that there has been some sort of accident and that Jennifer has no memory from before. Her best friend informs her that she has ‘the perfect life’, but upon discovering a love letter from another man that she had hidden in a book, Jennifer sets about discovering the truth and searching for a love that she’s forgotten. Meanwhile, in the present time, Ellie (Jones) is introduced as a less than interested thirty-something, emerging from a one-night stand with a clear desire to avoid any sort of meaningful relationship. She’s a journalist working on a profile, who upon discovering a letter in the paper’s archive, begging “J” to run away with him, is absolutely determined to learn the romantic story of the mysterious ‘pen pals’ from the past. With the help of an eager archivist, Rory (Rizwan), Ellie begins to piece together the romance, presented to the audience through flashbacks, between Jennifer and Anthony O’Hare (Turner).

 The Last Letter from Your Lover is  definitely watchable. It’s an entertaining enough story which, while relatively predictable, holds the attention of it’s audience. The writing has moments that are beautifully poetic, particularly in the letters, which I assume are taken directly from the book. It helps the establish the differences between the two timelines and adds to the romance at the core of the story.  Having said this, it’s not quite the sweeping romance it feels like it should be. I can only attribute that to the lack of on screen passion, particularly in the flashback timeline. We aren’t given the opportunity to watch the relationship actually develop, we are presented with a hint of their true passion through the letters, but in the action we’re given limited dialogue, some nice montages and no real exploration of the story of their falling for each other.

The story gives us four characters who have had or are having unhappy experiences of relationships which creates drama. It immediately presents conflict which makes a romance more interesting, but the lack of exploration into three of the four backstories leaves its audience wanting. I quite enjoyed the modern day story; they didn’t push it too much or over romanticise a situation that was clearly just starting which makes it a little bit more authentic. The flashbacks are definitely romanticised but it fits the essence and world that is created in the flashbacks. You can see moments where the filmmakers clearly try to mirror the two stories. This works quite nicely as a link and to highlight the differences between the two times, but it feels like it could have been used to a greater level; to really show similarities in heart, frustration or hurt, particularly between the two female leads who had plenty of differences. 

While this review has been somewhat critical, I would still recommend watching it. It’s entertaining, has moments of romance and is led by a solid cast. My frustrations stem from a story that has so much potential. It just feels that the end result is lacking, and if we had been given more backstory and character development I think it could have been great. 

Sabrina (1954) – Review

Rating: U Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and John Williams Directed by Billy Wilder Written by Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman and Samuel Taylor Length: 113mins

Sabrina is a somewhat archetypal romantic comedy. It tells the story of a young girl, the daughter of a chauffeur who has eyes for the youngest son of her fathers employer. While growing up on the extravagant grounds of the Larrabee family home, Sabrina (Hepburn) longs to gain the attention of  David Larrabee (Holden); the resident wild child and polar opposite of his older brother, Linus (Bogart), who’s focus is purely on maintaining and expanding the family business empire. Sabrina is sent to cookery school in Paris in the hopes that she’ll forget David, but returns an elegant young woman with the ability to turn heads and capture the attention she’s so longed for.

It is impossible to comment on this film without discussing the cast. Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart  are nothing short of phenomenal. Their characters are so wonderfully authentic, drifting through their story and switching between the more serious moments to the more comical  so smoothly. Holden’s portrayal of David matches up to his co-stars just as well, with the only slight blip being the staff at the Larrabee house were slightly heightened which distracts from the more naturalistic telling of the story.

One of the more understated wonders of this film is the script; based upon the play ‘Sabrina Fair’ written by Samuel Taylor in 1953 and adapted for screen by Billy Wilder, Samuel Taylor and Ernest Lehman. While eloquently telling the story there is a brilliant amount of dry humour – one liners woven into the script that I hadn’t noticed when watching the film a few years ago, it’s brilliantly funny without the actors making the humour loud or extravagant. A feat that, to me, shows how deeply Wilder trusted both his material and his actors to tell the story and allow the dialogue to land with its audiences. 

On the surface, I’m not sure it’s even possible to mix the likes of Billy Wilder, it’s cast and this script without creating a timeless classic. Everything about it is so watchable. I highly recommend ‘Sabrina’, especially if you would usually write off black and white films; this was the first film I ever saw that wasn’t in colour and it really changed my mind. I had a completely unfounded hesitancy to watch B+W films because I thought I would get bored – if anything, they have to do more to keep a modern audiences attention and in my experience, they do just that!

I would also just add that although this is certified ‘U’ – one of the early scenes is an attempted suicide and, although nothing shocking or graphic it’s worth bearing in mind if you are watching with younger children.