OPENING THIS WEEK
Spider-Man: Homecoming If you've ever been friends with a couple who had a baby, you know that part of the fun of meeting the little tyke for the first time is trying to figure out just whom he has to thank for his various facial features. The father? The mother? That nice masseuse they met on their honeymoon in Barbados? It's a wonderland of options!
That's what it's going to be like watching Homecoming, the first cooperative venture between Disney/Marvel and Sony. Based on past evidence, the smart bet says Sony is going to end up having been responsible for all the bad DNA; the big question is what the exact ratio of suckage to good stuff is going to be. Yes, Tom Holland's portrayal of Spidey in Captain America: Civil War was perhaps the most engaging interpretation of the character yet, but the trailers for Homecoming have been a seriously mixed bag of invigorating action and sub-Monster Squad lunchroom sad-sack-isms. And then there's that universally lambasted poster, which was pure Solarbabies level.
Last week, the producers of the film even attempted to goose goodwill by having Holland "reveal" that a young Peter Parker had debuted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe all the way back in Iron Man 2 – a desperate bit of retconning that was greeted as basically ludicrous by the fans, some of whom pointed out that the character in question had actually been a girl. So maybe this iteration of Parker is the Amazing Trans-Man?
Then again, there is a precedent for the younger incarnation of a male cultural icon being portrayed by a female performer – that is, if you believe Martha Quinn. I can vividly recall the congenitally perky VJ revealing to her audience that the young Eddie Van Halen in the "Hot for Teacher" video was in fact a girl. And that's what I kept right on believing until I had to do the research for this very column to find out just what the little dear's name had been. And guess what? Said kid actor wasn't a girl at all, but one Brian Hitchcock. MTV lied to me! Now all my jokes about a girl playing Eddie Van Halen are out the window. However, this crushing disillusionment doesn't change the answer to the trivia question "Name the girl who was once played by Eddie Van Halen." That answer, as always, remains "Gary Cherone."
So anyway, yeah. Homecoming. I'm looking forward to it. (PG-13)
Past Life The controversial diaries of Holocaust survivor Baruch Milch provided the narrative fodder for this mystery melodrama, in which two Israeli sisters begin to suspect that their father's activities during World War II may have included some murdering of his own. (My guess is that he's really Magneto, but I always go a little crazy when there's a Marvel movie opening.) Having made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival 10 months ago, the film has only now received a theatrical release – belatedly if only partially vindicating The Hollywood Reporter's prediction that "slick production values and evergreen historical themes could translate into theatrical traction." Yeah, these historical themes really are evergreen, especially in their apparent ability to bring out the worst in everyone who comes in contact with them. I made the mistake of reading the comments on a few reviews of Past Life, and I now know that suggesting the moral fallibility of Holocaust survivors is just a way to give Mahmoud Abbas everything he wants. Boy, that Jared Kushner really has his work cut out for him. (NR)