SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (Theaters)
Spidey returns in a webslinging-fest that is the best movie in its 19-year franchise.
It’s exciting, cleverly scripted and jam-packed with creepy (and familiar) villains who come from an alternate reality know as the multiverse.
Also, the beguiling Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) of “The Avengers” has a major role as Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) colleague and mentor.
At the end of the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019) feature, the world learned that Peter Parker is actually Spider-Man. With fake newsman and Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) continually blaming Spider-Man for the destruction caused by the baddies, Spider-Man/Peter Parker goes from superhero to zero in the eyes of the public.
Peter’s girl MJ (Zendaya), his best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon) and even Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) get questioned by law enforcement.
It’s a hoot to catch up with the supervillains from various “Spider-Man” features. The superweird group includes Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus aka Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin/Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), Flint Marko/Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Max Dillon/Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Curt Connors/The Lizard (Rhys Ifans).
Director Jon Watts blends action, humor and sensational effects into an enthralling 2-1/2 hour feature that carries a slew of truly excellent surprises.
Hopefully, before seeing the film, viewers will be able to avoid the major spoilers flooding the internet.
3 and 1/2 Stars
SWAN SONG (Theaters and Apple TV+)
Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (“Greenbook” “Moonlight”) gives another brilliant performance in “Swan Song” an emotionally-charged drama set in the near future.
Ali portrays Cameron Turner, a husband and father who has learned that he is suffering from a terminal illness with no hope for a cure. But Cameron discovers an alternate solution — at a starkly beautiful hospice and cloning center where Dr. Scott (Glenn Close) and her team of a few humans and many robotic technicians can create a perfect DNA specimen.
An advanced scientific experiment has been refined so that it is possible that an exact copy of Cameron can be made. But why would anyone take such a controversial step rife with moral questions? Cameron is assured by Dr. Scott that his wife Poppy (Naomie Harris) and his young son will never know that he has been replaced by a replica.
Writer and director Benjamin Cleary presents a challenging drama about the lengths to which a person might go to spare their loved ones grief. As a woman who has previously suffered from great sorrow, Harris turns in a moving performance.
The reliable Awkwafina adds dark humor as Kate, who has completed the transition process.
The sci-fi bits of the film are low key, and the film’s futuristic aspects only remain obvious because of the driverless vehicles.
Ali and Harris also appeared together in the Best Picture Academy Award winner “Moonlight” in 2016.
Alice Reese is a member of the Dallas Fort Worth Film Critics Association. She reviews movies, arts and entertainment for the Herald-Banner and for KETR.