There’s a scene early in Spider-Man: Homecoming that sums up its flaws fairly efficiently. Our intrepid hero is dashing through a series of backyards, in what first seems a standard pursuit and then reveals itself as a sly homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – a delightful little moment that’s immediately imploded by a shot of a backyard HDTV (y’know, like everyone has) playing the Ferris Bueller scene they’re quoting. And suddenly we’re reminded of all the information we were given in advance: that this was a happy, fun Spider-Man movie, closer to John Hughes than Marc Webb, but one that doesn’t trust its audience enough to get the references, and one that’s constantly reminding us – via cameos, references, and winks – that it’s part of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” now. As a result, its gee-whiz enthusiasm and light-hearted approach feels less organic, and more like a calculated, cynical strategy. But hey, most of the jokes are good, it’s got a great midpoint set piece, and at least it’s not another goddamn origin story.
If you’re lucky enough to live anywhere that’s showing it, the must-see of the weekend is A Ghost Story, a delicate and deliberate work that turns our notions of both supernatural stories and cinematic romance inside out. It turns out, it’s neither of those things; it’s a meditation on the passage of time and the tentativeness of life itself, though a good deal less pretentious than I just made it sound. Read our review here, and then our interview with writer/director David Lowery.
Also out this week in limited release is The Rehearsal, the long-awaited new feature from Jesus’ Son director Alison Maclean, set in an intensive acting conservatory program, and delving deep into the the dysfunctional family dynamics that can take root in these small cohorts. Read more about it in this month’s indie guide.
And finally, we have Cartel Land director Matthew Heineman’s City of Ghosts, the story of how a group of courageous citizens in the Syrian city of Raqqa – the “capital of ISIS” – use hidden cameras, savvily manipulated satellites, and the power of the Internet to share stills and video of the barbarism that had taken over their hometown. It’s a powerful, terrifying portrait of truly heroic journalism, and of people standing up to oppression, no matter the cost. Read more in the indie guide.