ST. LOUIS — I've had enough of Spider-Man. Former listeners of the Frank O. Pinion show will get that reference. But I'm serious about everyone's favorite good-hearted yet doomed web-slinger.
The Marvel golden goose has seen nearly as many iterations as Batman over the past 22 years. Tom Holland fared the best in the role in my opinion, but even he looked ready to check out at the end of "No Way Home" last December. The young Brit doesn't want to play Peter Parker forever, even if the checks are extra green. There's more Marvel comics out there to explore, and Holland is talented enough (watch him in "Cherry" to find out) to move on to juicier roles.
But that won't stop Sony chair Amy Pascal, who will definitely order more films because they broke box office records and then some earlier this year. It's no surprise or secret. Holland will probably be involved for another film or two. But we really don't need another one, unless they really strip it down to something different than what has come before.
Next up is Mr. Wick. The unkillable assassin who simply wanted a quiet widow life with his sweet dog is back and apparently madder than ever. After surviving a gunshot from his formerly loyal friend, Winston (Ian McShane), that sent him over the roof of the Continental Hotel at the end of "Chapter 3," Wick is thinking he's back once again in the first trailer for "John Wick 4," ridding the world of worse killers forever. Check it out.
The first look begins with a bloodied wooden post, covered in a crimson-soaked thread that has taken a few Wick jabs to the jawline. With the International still gunning for his head, he's still deemed excommunicado, the man can't rest. Plot has never been the selling ingredient for this franchise that kicked off in 2014 with modest indie intentions. You heard the simple premise before. A retired hitman who just lost his wife to cancer has received the gift of a lifetime: a lovely puppy. When Russian mobsters kill that puppy and beat up Wick, they made the fatal mistake of getting about 1,200 people killed in the subsequent three film tirade. A willing action ballet curated to unique perfection by director Chad Stahelski, a veteran stunt man who once doubled for Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix" movies.
It's Reeves who powers these movies forward into another place. With his classic man of few words modern gunslinger personality and documented dedication to the stunt work, he's the perfect specimen to step into Wick's shoes. It's his leading man work, mixed in with a wonderful cast including Lance Reddick and Laurence Fishburne, that has made these films sing. The addition of Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins only ensures this will be an epic martial arts extravaganza. Just listen to my pal, director Liam O'Donnell, on the upcoming film:
Need something quieter to watch this weekend? I think "Another Round" appeals to just about every teenage or grown man. but women can also find a lot of value in this maturely told testosterone tale. The story of four best friends, teachers at the same school, who go on an alcoholic adventure together-testing a theory that humans are born a quart low of alcohol-and find out things they love and other things they don't love so much. Mads Mikkelsen is his usual dynamic self as Martin, the heart of the group who uses the experiment to send his quiet life a few high waves. But it's the underknown supporting cast, like Magnus Millang and Thomas Bo Larsen, who give Thomas Vinterberg's beautiful film texture. It's not just about getting drunk with your friends on a regimen; it's about resisting the diluting of the human experience by deleting emotion and unconventional decisions from one's life. It's about friendship, and the way it shapes and forms our outlook on life. It moved me. Worth whatever small fee Amazon Prime charges.
Can we put one big, final nail in the coffin of the supposedly still lost (it's not) Zack Snyder-Verse with the DCEU? Warner Brothers is already rewiring their comic book movie division and Snyder himself has moved on to Netflix pastures. He made a rollicking time of a movie with last year's "Army of the Dead" and has more of that sweet action chaos on the way. He is doing other things, and it's been five years since "Justice League," the original cut that wasn't Snyder's due to family tragedy, came out.
His version finally saw daylight last year, and for good reason. It was a better, if still overlong, movie that seemed much more cohesive and can be viewed on HBO Max. But that should have been the end of it. If they reboot Henry Cavill's Superman, like this week's Comic Con has teased, there will be a different director brought in most likely. Whatever Snyder did with 2013's "Man of Steel" has evaporated. Let it go. WB tried to mimic the MCU, and failed horribly. Snyder was collateral damage. He gets it. WB gets it. Most of us get it.
The Russo Brothers rode the MCU magic train to the highest point possible and are all about action, and I love them for their dedication to the craft. Their latest, "The Gray Man," hit Netflix subscriber screens yesterday after a quick week in theaters, and I plan on watching it tonight with my wife. There's an unwritten rule in our house. If Chris Evans walks up to the front door, I am toast. The same fate awaits my wife if Scarlett Johansson shows up. So I am definitely rooting for Ryan Gosling versus Evans, with Ana de Armas and Dhanush thrown in for extra kicking impossible measures, in Anthony and Joe Russo's latest movie. Black Widow can sit this one out, thank you.
One more thing about "The Gray Man." It doesn't have to be a Best Picture candidate or a modern day amigo to Michael Mann's "Heat," even if I would love to see the brothers tackle that terrain. "The Gray Man" just needs to entertain. That's it.
Thanks for reading.