Saturday, August 10, 2019

Pre-Code Parade: PEACH O'RENO (1931)

 Indignant Matron: How can you look me in the face?
Robert Woolsey: Well, I guess I've gotten used to it.

---
Once upon a time, Reno NV was the divorce capital of the United States. It was a resort town where people stayed for the minimal period that made them eligible for a divorce under Nevada law as of the early 1930s. Gambling had been made legal in the state around the same time, and the combination of easy divorce and the promise of easy money made Reno "the biggest little city in America." It was an almost inevitable destination for Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, as directed this time by William A. Seiter. I was growing used to a Wheeler and Woolsey formula that starts them off as desperate transients living by their wits, i.e. not particularly well until an improbable opportunity enables Woolsey to flex his con-man -- er, I mean entrepreneurial muscles. Peach O'Reno skips the origin stage to present our heroes, here calling themselves Wattles and Swift, as established, aggressively entrepreneurial divorce lawyers. In the fantasy land of Reno, their bustling office, staffed by girls in bellhop livery, transforms into a casino, the girls stripping down (and almost going overboard until ordered to halt) into skimpy waitress costumes. The transformation sight gags make Peach of a piece with RKO's contemporary cartoonishly absurd musical comedies like Melody Cruise and Down to Their Last Yacht and it all makes me wonder how Wheeler and Woolsey never crossed paths with Astaire and Rogers at their shared studio. We can ponder that another time. For now, know that Wattles and Swift's aggressive business practices have made bitter enemies of the more established firm of Jackson, Jackson, Jackson and Jackson, one of whom arranges for his election as a judge in order to thwart their rivals, regardless of the self-evident conflict of interests. Worse, their success as divorce lawyers has made Wattles, at least, a mortal enemy in the rancher and gambler Ace Crosby (Mitchell Harris). He appears in Reno as Wattles and Swift take on the case, one on each side, of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bruno, who are determined to separate after a bitter fight at their silver anniversary party. Their daughters hope to prevent the breakup; one of them, inevitably, is Wheeler's regular song-and-dance partner Dorothy Lee.

To secure a divorce, Wattles and Swift must provide evidence of unfaithful correspondence; their clients must catch their spouses with companions of the opposite sex. Somehow Mrs. Bruno (Cora Witherspoon) is hooked up with Crosby the gambler, while Mr. Bruno (Joseph Cawthorn) is attached to a cross-dressing Wattles, whose coquettish ways attract the worrisome attention of Crosby. This is a great film if you want to see Bert Wheeler in drag, and it'll also make you reflect on how poor a shot a westerner can be. Once Crosby figures out Wattles' disguise, a bullet-proof vest saves the lawyer from an early demise, but he then makes the mistake of taking off his vest and walking out of the death-chamber before Crosby is safely out of the casino. Crosby resumes fire at near point-blank range, always aiming for the ass as you do in comedies, but always manages to miss the crawling, scurrying Wattles until the police collect him. That leaves the big divorce trial, at which point the filmmakers lose track of the narrative. Judge Jackson (Sam Hardy) presides, but rather than sabotage the lawyers he seems perfectly content, if not outright amused, to play his part in a vaudeville sketch, alongside the jurors and an intrusive radio announcer. No matter: this is the sort of film where a divorcing couple thinks better of their plans at the last minute and fall sobbing into each other's arms. Not only are they reunited, but they now have sons-in-law in Wattles and Swift. It lacks the anarchic edge of Wheeler and Woolsey's most outrageous films but Peach O'Reno is amiable enough and if you like the RKO team as a matter of habit you'll definitely like them here.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

DVR Diary: L'AINE DES FERCHAUX (1963)

Also known as "Doom Magnet" and "An Honorable Young Man," Jean-Pierre Melville's first color film is widely regarded as the weakest film of his great 1960s run, and that looks like a fair assessment. Something's off right from the start. Star Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a mediocre boxer entering the ring for a make-or-break fight. The crowd is entirely unresponsive as the fighters are introduced and while they fight during the opening credits. After Michel, Belmondo's character, loses on points, part of the crowd comes to life to heckle him as he leaves the arena. Perhaps we've learned something about Michel; to lose the way he did in an uneventful bout suggests that he lacks heart. He definitely lacks something. After two weeks he's reduced to abandoning his apartment to avoid paying rent and selling his and his girlfriend Lina's spare clothes, and the only reason he doesn't sell her heirloom necklace, regardless of what he tells her later, is that the thing is actually worthless. To be fair, Michel is looking for work and manages to land a promising gig as a "secretary" to Dieudonne Ferchaux (Charles Vanel), a banker who's fleeing France to avoid prosecution for murdering some Africans back in colonial days. The only catch is that Michel has to leave with Ferchaux immediately. That means sneaking out on Lina (Malvina Silberberg) as she sits at an outdoor cafe table without a sou to her name. Our protagonist has been established as just about as unlikable as possible.

Ferchaux is bound for the U.S., where he has funds stashed in a safe-deposit box. He can't get the bulk of his money out of his American bank accounts because of the extradition threat, however, and to keep one step ahead he heads south with Michel, toward the ultimate goal of Venezuela and another safe-deposit box. The second half of the film takes place around New Orleans and includes a nice little travelogue of the city's red-light district. Michel grows increasingly weary of Ferchaux as the older man, less lordly on the run, grows more emotionally needy -- almost like a girlfriend. He thinks of taking the money and running, but a group of unsavory locals led by Jeff (American character actor Todd Martin), a French-speaking veteran who runs a diner, is getting the same idea.  By now Michel has an American girlfriend (Michele Mercier), which gives him extra motivation to grab the money. But once he does so, he has second thoughts that reach back a great distance. He reminds himself of what he did to Lina back home, and that seems to inspire him to return the money. When he goes back to Ferchaux's lair, he finds the old man fighting with Todd and his crew. Michel comes to the rescue, but Ferchaux is already mortally wounded. As a final act of generosity, the dying man offers Michel the key to the safe-deposit box in Caracas. "You and your money can go to hell," Michel answers as the film fades out. You get the impression that he did the right thing at the end not so much out of loyalty to Ferchaux but to make virtual amends to Lina, if not simply to do the right thing for once. While Melville based this film on a novel by Georges Simenon, France's 20th-century master of mystery and crime fiction, it comes across as an inflated anecdote, padded with second-unit American footage. Melville's protagonists are rarely good guys, but they often have some quality that earns some sympathy from the audience, but Michel is too much of a selfish mediocrity for most of the film to be worth caring about, while Vanel's Ferchaux is a monster who turns into a wretch. I get the impression that we were supposed to appreciate the color and the atmosphere more than anything else while waiting for Michel's moral awakening, but that wasn't enough. This wasn't a terrible film, only unengaging beyond its value as a travelogue for parts of 1960s America. Fortunately, Melville's best work was still ahead of him.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

DEVIL'S EXPRESS (Gang Wars, 1976)

First-time director Barry Rosen bet on a Seventies genre trifecta by making a blaxploitation martial-arts horror film, and while I wouldn't call it a good movie it is an often-fascinating document of the fantasy life springing from the grungy state of urban life at that time. In its Mummy-inspired prologue, ancient Chinese monks lower a mysterious casket, with an amulet attached, into a hole in the earth. To ensure that no one knows the location of the burial, the leader of the little group kills everyone else before putting himself to the sword. While he might well have waited until they'd all done something to cover the hole, no one actually discovers the mystery inside until centuries later.


In 1970s Harlem, martial-arts instructor Luke (Warhawk Tanzania) spars with his friend Cris (Larry Fleischman). It's a tense friendship since Luke is black and Cris is a white cop, but as Luke explains to his suspicious students, he owes Cris a favor. In any event, Luke and his student-buddy Rodan (Wilfredo Roldan) are soon off to Hong Kong for some elite training. Rodan's head really isn't into the discipline -- he's more of a thug at heart -- but Luke earns a diploma after a match with the master. After that, Luke is sent to an island to meditate, while Rodan is tasked with watching over him. Bored by it all, Rodan just happens to discover the pit that generations of random explorers and possible treasure hunters managed to miss. Lowering himself in with ease, he snatches the amulet and takes it home to America with him.


The Hong Kong-New York steamer has another passenger: a Chinese man who suddenly finds himself possessed by some unseen entity. By the time he reaches the U.S. he's a staggering, bug-eyed mess terrified by every bright light and sharp sound until he finds a sort of shelter in the subway system. Now whatever's inside him can come into its own, though the filmmakers don't quite have the money to do more than suggest a chest-bursting exit with a lot of bleeding.


Meanwhile, Rodan and his gang buddies escalate their feud with a Chinese gang after he gets ripped off in a cocaine deal. In a violent variation on West Side Story the Chinese and black/Hispanic gangs perform martial-arts rumbles in the slums of New York, where the producers enjoyed extensive municipal cooperation despite their film's unflattering snapshot of Seventies squalor. As the gang war escalates, Cris and the rest of the police begin investigating a subway serial killer. While his comedy-relief partner invokes urban legends of mutant animals, Cris suspects that the killings are gang-related, despite Luke's vehement pushback against that suggestion. Luke's attitude toward his friends is strangely ambivalent. He warns them constantly against using martial arts in anger, but it's unclear whether he even realizes that Rodan is a drug dealer or if he would care. He lives in a sort of ebony tower, content to make love to his girlfriend and improve his knowledge until the killings come to close to home.


As you might guess, the subway entity is drawn to Rodan for the amulet he wears -- but by the time it finally catches up with him, the Chinese gang has snatched it away. That's how their wise old mentor is finally able to explain the actual situation to Luke, once the Chinese convince him that they weren't the ones who slammed Rodan face-first into a transformer. Only Luke has the mental discipline to defeat the monster, which adds an arsenal of psychic attacks to its arsenal for the final showdown in the tunnels. It takes a variety of forms, including Rodan and later two fighters at once, before trying to convince Luke that trains are bearing down on him. For Rosen it's a brave effort at something trippy and supernatural, but when the monster finally shows its true form and goes for a death grapple the scene is too dark to appreciate either the monster get-up or the climactic action.


While Devil's Express ends on an underwhelming note, it's an admirable B-film in which everyone seems to be trying hard to make an impression. Warhawk Tanzania (who made only one more film) is no real actor but at least errs on the side of excess, and while the fighting isn't much by Chinese standards (and the gore effects are mostly laughable) Rosen and his co-writers manage to invest each encounter with some dramatic urgency. They also find time for gratuitously entertaining stuff like a fight between a male bully and a female bartender at Luke's favorite watering hole and a cameo by misanthropic performance artist Brother Theodore -- he may be remembered from the early years of David Letterman's late-night show -- as a priest slowly driven mad by the subway killings. There's a likable cacophany to the pre-climactic scene where Luke negotiates with the cops to let him go into the tunnels alone while the priest rants to the assembled crowd about dead gods, pestiferous rats and whatnot. Rosen's enthusiasm makes it regrettable that he directed only one more film, though he's gone on to a long career as a TV producer. For Devil's Express he threw a lot of stuff at the screen to see what would stick, and that's almost certain to leave at least something for some of us to like.

Friday, July 26, 2019

LIGHTNING BOLT (Operazione Goldman, 1966)

The American title of Antonio Margheriti's Eurospy film presumably has "lightning" in its title because the James Bond film Thunderball had only recently come out, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Woolner Brothers, who distributed the film here and partly financed it, worried that the original title would make the thing sound Jewish. As far as the original writers were concerned, or so Wikipedia tells us, the hero was called Goldman because of his unlimited expense account -- and as a play on Goldfinger, or course. For U.S. consumption he's "Lightning Bolt" but is mostly known by his real name, Harry Sennett (Anthony Eisley). He answers to Captain Pat Flanagan (Diana Lorys), who's introduced in a manner that teases that she'll be the dominant character. Her share of the action is relatively light, however, though she does get to save Harry by shooting an enemy female. At other times she may as well be a damsel in distress. While the judo-throwing lady on the U.S. poster hints at female empowerment, you don't really get much of that here.


Instead, Flanagan and Sennett are tasked with figuring out how recent failed space shots from Cape Kennedy -- represented by archival footage -- might have been sabotaged. While the globe-trotting storylines of 1960s spy films were a big part of their appeal, Lightning Bolt restricts itself to Florida and environs, where our protagonists pursue various leads on their way to discovering the saboteur.


Goldman makes up for its limited scope with an admirably absurd villain. Beer magnate Rehte, played by Italian actor Folco Lulli done up as the stereotypical crew-cut, "pig-eyed" German, has a hankering to rule the world. The key to his plan is installing a superweapon on the moon that will allow him to blackmail all nations with the threat of mass destruction. He can't have other countries landing anything on the moon before his plans are complete -- hence the sabotage. Director Margheriti tries to further make up for his film's lack of variety in locations by giving Rehte a relatively impressive villain's lair in an underwater complex that somehow was built near Florida without the Americans finding out about it until Sennett and Flanagan applied themselves. The omnipresent Rehte brand also gives the film a modest Pop Art touch.


It's not enough for Rehte to rule an underwater city, scheme for world rule and brew beer of uncertain quality. He also has ways of dealing with insubordinate or incompetent henchpeople. He puts them in cryogenic suspended animation, a fate close to death that leaves victims the hope of revival. Rehte keeps one of his henchwomen in line by keeping her father in this state, but when he punishes her by thawing dad out and reducing him to a rapidly-moldering corpse, it only drives her once and for all to the good guys' side. Their task is to rescue a Scots-American rocket scientist Rehte had kidnapped (Paco Sanz) while destroying the brewer's rocket and his entire complex while they're at it. There's a respectable amount of destruction in the end. but at the end of the day the villain isn't compelling enough for his downfall to really impress us. Eisley lacks the charisma or more plausible prowess of Brad Harris and Tony Kendall in the Komissar X films. Overall, Lightning Bolt barely manages to distinguish itself in a momentarily very crowded field.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

LEGACY OF SATAN (1972)

Inside every porno filmmaker, I suppose, is an aspiring mainstream director. The pay is better and you're not as bound by genre conventions, no matter what critics of Hollywood say. The ambition was there, however briefly, in Gerard Damiano, who enjoyed a moment of fame -- somewhere between notoriety and celebrity -- when his film Deep Throat became a surprise hit in 1972. He followed that up with another quasi-crossover hit, The Devil in Miss Jones, in 1973. If anyone was positioned to attempt a crossover into true mainstream filmmaking, it was Damiano. In fact, he had already taken his shot. Filmed in the year Deep Throat was released, Legacy of Satan played double bills with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but to my knowledge the Deep Throat connection went unmentioned. That's just as well, since it would only have created false expectations for a movie that seems closer to a PG rating -- at least in the version I saw -- than the R it received.  It's a shame that Damiano didn't wait until after Deep Throat had hit before trying this, as he could almost certainly have gotten a bigger budget to work with. Instead, while displaying some pictorial ambition, Legacy looks cheap and slapdash, and while more money might have gotten the director better actors, the shabby screenplay is all on him.


The story plays out like an old eight-page horror comic in which wild things happen with little regard for why they happen. After a demonic ritual -- the villains worship an entity called Rakheesh rather than Satan -- plays out under the opening credits -- we sit in on a husband and wife, George and Maya, talking to their friend Arthur, who's quit his job to become a sort of spiritual seeker. Arthur proves to be a kind of talent scout for the cult leader, Dr.Muldavo, who enthuses over a photograph of Maya as if she were his reincarnated lost love. This visibly irks Muldavo's mistress/henchwoman Aurelia, but since she's a mute there's not much she can say about it.


Maya begins to have disturbing dreams and behaves disturbingly, too. One fine day, just before they're scheduled to visit Dr. Muldavo at Arthur's invitation, she deliberately slices her finger and makes George suck the blood. The Rakheesh worshippers are blood drinkers, you see, Aurelia being the current supplier for Muldavo. George isn't sure what to make of all this, while Maya is subject to mood swings that only add to her husband's confusion.


At Chez Muldavo, Maya and George are slipped a couple of Mickeys. For Maya it's like a hit of Reefer Madness-grade marijuana, setting her prancing about the room, while George basically passes out. He's quickly locked away so Muldavo can put the moves on Maya, but before any unholy marriage can be consummated, jealous Aurelia frees George and arms him with a magic, or at least a glowing sword. She gets stabbed for her trouble, but George avenges her by slashing Muldavo's face with the burning blade, sending the cult leader pitching over a balcony.


George and Maya run for it, but Maya -- how like a female -- asks for a rest. But aha! George was too late after all. Maya has turned, and asked for a time out only so the cultists could catch up and kill her husband. Now she tends to poor Muldavo, who survived the fall but has suffered a hideous, constantly worsening facial burn. Only fresh blood can save him, so Maya sets about exsanguinating some cult members -- but to no avail. To her despair, Muldavo succumbs, leaving her to plead with Rakheesh for some sign that they'll be together again. We get the sign at the very end, when Maya turns her head to reveal a scar like her late beloved's growing on her face. In the absence of any actual character development (or "arc") for Maya, Legacy gives us little more than a nearly random sequence of strange behaviors -- and nobody else has nearly as much development as Maya. Nor can any of the cast act, as far as I could tell here. Legacy  fails as transgressive cinema. What I saw appears to have some gore cut out, unless I'm only noticing editor Damiano's ineptitude, and there's no nudity whatsoever. It ends up reminiscent in ways of Andy Milligan's work, with which Legacy was sometimes associated in double-bills, but without Milligan's splenetic attitude. There's no real personality at all here, and I wouldn't be surprised if students of Damiano assured us that some of his pornos are better cinema. Maybe things would have been different if he did this a little later, flush with success and possibly roaring with ambition, but maybe he'd already found his true medium, and horror movies simply weren't it.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

DVR Diary: DEVI (1960)

In its native country, Satyajit Ray's 1960 film provoked considerable controversy when it was interpreted as an attack on religion. It took an intervention from founding father Jawaharlal Nehru, who urged people to see Devi before judging it, to assure the film a wide, global audience. Viewers outside India could just as well take it as an attack on superstition, but Devi may seem to them more like a psychological horror film about the breakdown of a woman's sense of self. The woman, Daya (Sharmila Tagore), is the young bride of Uma (Soumitra Chatterjee), scion of a respectable Bengali family who seeks a western-influenced higher education in 19th century India. While he takes classes in Calcutta and imbibes high culture, Daya moves in with the in-laws: father Kalinkar (Chhabi Biswas), brother-in-law (Purnendu Mukherjee) and his wife (Karuna Banerjee) and little son (Arpan Chowdhury). The old man worships Kali, more as a mother figure than as the destroyer westerners will think of. He has a man singing devotional songs that have a strong sentimental "mammy" quality on the steps of the estate. Before long, he's had a vision showing him that Daya is an incarnation of Kali. He installs her on a pedestal, where she becomes the confused but ultimately passive object of neighborhood devotion. For what it's worth, she'd already become the idol of her nephew, creating jealousy in the boy's mother, who sees her husband as a loser compared to his younger brother, Daya's husband. To the boy, Daya may be a second, better mother, and all the men in the household arguably see her as a mother figure, even though she hasn't yet had a child herself.

The situation escalates when an old man from the countryside brings his sick grandson to Daya, hoping that Kali (or "Ma") will heal the boy, his only remaining relative. When the miracle happens, through no special effort of Daya's, the cult spreads as Ray shows us long lines of pilgrims trooping in to pay homage. When Uma hears of this, however, he's scandalized. Returning home, he's determined to take Daya away from what he sees as craziness. By now, however, a seed, not of belief, but of existential doubt has taken root in Daya's mind. She can't be sure that she's not Kali, and so fears leaving her place at the shrine. Back there, the crisis comes when Khoka, the nephew, falls sick. His mom wants a real doctor to treat the boy, but he hesitates in the presence of the supposed god. Finally, with Khoka pleading for his Auntie, she entrusts her son to Daya -- but the family soon learns that "Kali" has taken Khoka for good. While the father wonders what sins he's being punished for, the dead boy's mother rages against the "witch" who "killed" Khoka. Of course, Uma is only more determined to rescue Daya from this meltdown, but by now, at the end, she just wants to run away from everything and everyone.

There's an irony in the background that Ray certainly must have appreciated. While poor Uma identifies Britain and the west with progress, in sharp contrast to the the superstition that ensnares Daya, their story plays out during the Victorian era, a time when English women were placed on pedestals and idolized, in a different fashion, to the detriment of their autonomy and agency. The Indian story differs in detail and intensity, but a universal point can be made about the treatment of women. Not even progressive Uma, after all, considers educating Daya as an option; she's an idol to him as well, in a way. Daya is trapped in a role that leaves little room for individuality or self-definition in an extreme instance of the social construction (or destruction) of identity. Angry Hindus may have seen Devi as a direct attack on their faith, but the wider world of cinema could just as easily see it as a tragic commentary on an emotional neediness among men that consumes and destroys women everywhere. The specifics of religion are just details that Ray deploys through visuals and especially with sound to tell his particular tale.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019) in SPOILERVISION

Most of the way, Jon Watts' sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like an appropriately comic epilogue to the last two Avengers movies. It feels true to the spirit of Marvel Comics to treat with levity what so shortly before had seemed the ultimate disaster or tragedy. So here we get a lot of riffs on the the comical complications of the event now known as "the blip," the five-year absence of half the people of Earth, followed by their very abrupt return. It seems like almost everyone in Peter Parker's science school suffered this fate, so all the characters we met in the last film look no more than two years older now. Far From Home leans even more toward teen comedy than Homecoming did, using a class trip to Europe as its framework like a special episode of an old sitcom. Writers spend so much time developing the teen plot -- in short, Peter (Tom Holland) wants to declare his love for MJ (Zendaya) but best bud Ned (Jacob Batalon) wants them to be bachelor buddies in Europe until he almost accidentally falls for Betty Brant (Angourie Rice), while suddenly-grown Brad (Remy Hill) has his own eyes set on MJ and Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) remains a conceited jerk. On top of that you have two comical chaperones, and on the side there's a budding romance between longtime Stark henchman Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Peter's frisky Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) There's so much of this early on, once we get past a prologue establishing the film's superhero credentials, that the standard supervillain plot feels secondary for quite a while. It doesn't help the supervillain plot that comics book already know what to expect from the beginning. The film, however, introduces Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), who acquires the nickname "Mysterio" from European TV, as a hero from an alternate universe who stands as Earth's only hope, in the apparently extended absence of most of the Avengers, against a quartet of rampaging elemental creatures appearing in different parts of the world. The only familiar hero Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) can lay hands on is Spidey, who finds this new crisis an unwelcome complication of his European plans but feels obliged to carry on Tony Stark's legacy. The comic book fans know Mysterio is a villain and are bound to grow impatient for the other shoe to drop as Beck befriends Peter and becomes a kind of new mentor for the young hero. The teen stuff is actually better written and definitely funnier, even if it makes Far From Home feel more like an Archie movie than a Marvel one.

The shoe finally drops once Peter is convinced that Beck is a worthier successor to Stark than he could be. He gives Beck the precious, all-powerful EDITH glasses bequeathed him by Stark, which is what Mysterio was after all along. Comics fans know the character as an illusionist and will have expected the elemental monsters to be fake. They are, in fact, a collective project, as Quentin Beck is but the leader of a clique of disgruntled former Stark Industries employees who have combined their talents to create illusions with teeth, holograms with drone air support adding up to genuine destructive power. The idea seems to be to make Mysterio Earth's greatest hero in a way that will allow all the clique to reap benefits in some corrupt way. To succeed, they need to kill the ever-suspicious Fury, but Beck is willing to let Peter live his life until Peter (and MJ) discover the truth about the elemental attacks. Now both of them, and Ned and Betty, are in mortal peril as well. While the idea of a gang of working stiffs, albeit in a higher pay grade, echoes the Vulture's gang in Homecoming, Far From Home raises the stakes from the previous film's admirably modest level as Mysterio orchestrates a mass-destruction attack on London, hoping to reinforce his heroic reputation by thwarting it after killing off anyone who may know too much. This adds up to an overlong, arguably incoherent climactic battle that has Spidey fighting drones, illusions and finally Beck himself while Happy Hogan and the primary school kids fight off drones in the Tower of London.

Gyllenhaal simply lacks the combo of charisma and gravitas Michael Keaton gave the vulture, and while the climactic fight is much busier than the climax of Homecoming it's not really an improvement. That Mysterio proves to be a one-and-done villain may also prove that neither the writers nor the actor were never very invested in the character, though he does get in a parting shot that will have ramifications for any further sequel. The weak villain condemns Far From Home to be an inferior film to Homecoming, unless you judge superhero films exclusively by the scale of action, but the ensemble of young actors remain likable enough to make their probable return still a welcome one. Holland is still a fine, easily-flustered Spidey and the other kids complement him well. Jackson is a more irascible Fury than we've seen in a while --  there's an explanation for this in the post-credits scene -- while Favreau, who goes back to the beginning of the MCU, makes a more plausible quasi-father figure for Peter. Overall, Far From Home isn't great, but thanks to most of the cast, it's hard to really dislike it.