Two of my favorite films from a summer full of not-very-many favorites have added special releases for the Labor Day weekend. It is — as many of you know — the unofficial end of the summer movie season.
They are “Spider-Man: Far From Home - Extended Cut” and “Midsommar Director’s Cut.”
Ironically, both films were released the first weekend in July. Traditionally that is considered the apex of the summer movie season; a season that stretches from a couple of weeks before Memorial Day’s weekend festivities to Independence Day.
They are going to do box office battle again like they did that weekend. Not that it is much of a contest. To date “Spider-Man” has brought in over $1 billion. That’s an astounding figure compared to “Midsommar’s” paltry $26 million.
Both films — however — do deserve a second big screen viewing. “Spider-Man” because it is the most fun I’ve had in a theater this year, and “Midsommar” because it’s a very frightening and brilliantly done horror movie.
“Spider-Man’s” 2:09 length has an addition of four minutes while “Midsommar” tacks on a whopping 24 to its 2:27 run time. Neither studio wants to talk all that much about what’s added. We know it’s an action scene for Spider-Man and the extra minutes in Midsommar are all over the place and are designed to heighten the film’s terrifying experience.
‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ - Extended Cut
If you are Marvel super hero fan and haven’t seen this one yet, then get out to a theater this week and catch what is — to date — my favorite movie of the summer. It has a lot in common with those really fun adventure films that used to regularly grace theater screens every Independence Day weekend.
By now the Internet has likely spoiled the surprises from the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and “Avengers: Endgame” connection. However, in case you don’t know, I’m still going to refrain from talking about them.
Here’s what I can tell you about the movie. Peter Parker wants to go on a tour of Europe with his high school classmates. With no other super heroes around to take care of a crisis, Iron Man crony Happy Hogan connects with Parker and says Nick Fury wants him to step in and get things fixed. Parker ignores the request. The kid has a crush on high school pal MJ and — very nervously — wants to see if she feels the same.
Or as I put it in July, pheromones top Fury.
While in Venice, Italy, a super beast pops out of the water. Spidey and a new hero the media tabs as Mysterio defeat it. The two become fast friends. This leads to the why of the attacks, and to a special gift from Iron Man that sits at the heart of the movie.
That’s all you need to know.
I’m a huge fan of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and of the producers of the new Spider-Man series. That is no secret. Compared to the first two attempts — that of Tobey Maguire and that of Andrew Garfield — Holland’s work is practically Academy Award worthy.
Another plus. From Zendaya’s MJ to Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio the casting is superb and their chemistry is exceptional. It doesn’t hurt that Holland and his co-stars benefit from some really good writing and directing.
Jon Watts directs. He did “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and teams again with Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers who wrote that film as well as “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “The Lego Batman Movie.”
What separates them and their movie from the other two series is a perfect understanding of the sense of humor of the character. Spider-Man is comic book-dom’s original smart aleck. So it is no surprise that “Spider-Man: Far From Home” adds lots of laughs to excellent special effects and some very good action sequences.
One of those sequences now gets an extra four minutes.
A last point, and one of the things I love most about this movie will probably be as big a surprise to you as it is to me. Regular readers know I don’t really like teen angst movies. I suspect that not even teens can appreciate the hormone heavy, cheesy crap that passes as high school love stories these days.
Those same regular readers also know I’m also not much of a fan of most super hero movies. They are way too formula, and there have been so many of them in the last decade that they all kind of blend together.
“Spider-Man: Far From Home” stands out from the crowd and does justice to both genres. Parker and MJ’s romantic awkwardness is fun and funny, and while crammed into a super hero movie, it still manages to feel very natural and is not forced. Equally good news is that the super hero part of the movie is not overdone.
That’s where the extra four minutes kind of worries me. Does it tip “Far From Home” into the overdone category? Probably not and that leads to one of the points I made in the intro to this column. From the opening salvo to the clever close, this is the most fun I’ve had in a theater all year.
▪ Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some violence. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, at the AMC Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
▪ Rating: 5 out of 5
‘Midsommar’ - Director’s Cut
The extra 24 minutes from writer/director Ari Aster’s film worries me. The original 2:27 of “Midsommar” is a practically perfect horror movie. His first effort, last year’s “Hereditary” is held in similar esteem by me and by a lot of other critics.
I’m not going to go too deep into the plot. This is a familiar yet unique horror story. Florence Pugh’s (“Fighting with My Family”) Dani is a young woman whose parents and sister commit suicide. Her boyfriend Christian is done by Jacy Reynor (“Kin”). He wants to break up with her but doesn’t because of the timing.
His friends — played by Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper and Vilhelm Blomgren — can’t figure that one out and are even more flabbergasted when he invites her along on a planned summer vacation trip to Sweden. They’re going to an annual festival at the home village of Blomgren’s Pelle.
Once they get there, bad things happen. Really bad things.
“Midsommar” is dark, and very, very uncomfortable. But in all that dark, there is a lot of light. Dani is looking for anything to help with the pain and her loss. She’s looking for light but Christian and his friends are anything but light. They are dark, practically soulless young men.
The villagers — living in a very dark and evil cult — are all dressed in white. It is a contrast as intriguing as that of the Americans who have no hope or love but — naturally — want to live. The hopes of the villagers are based in a deadly acceptance that death is a good thing that benefits them all.
What horror buffs love most about “Midsommar” is that you know something bad is going to happen in every single scene of the movie. Of course, it doesn’t. That is how Aster keeps you wound up and on the edge of your seat.
And when something does happen, it happens in expected and yet, very unexpected ways.
If horror is your thing, the contrast is really fun. So is how Aster manages to almost hypnotize you. And he does it much like how these young people are sucked into death that seems so much like life and light.
For the genre, the original theater release is perfect. This is especially true in an era where most horror films are crap. Most critics — me included — consider Aster’s movie an unforgettable gem.
This is where I get really concerned about that extra 24 minutes. Hopefully — and considering the film has grown from 2:27 to almost three-hours — the director’s cut doesn’t make all that perfection seem more bloated.
▪ Rated R for violence, language, nudity and drug use. It’s playing at the AMC Kennewick 12.
▪ Rating: 4 out of 5