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‘Cherry’ Review


I’m all for Tom Holland and the Russo brothers spreading their creative wings and trying to do more than Marvel blockbuster films, but maybe they should choose better projects than this one.

“Cherry” is based on the popular semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Nico Walker. Tom Holland stars as an Army veteran who battles PTSD and an opioid addiction, and resorts to robbing banks in order to pay for his habits. Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Rispoli, and Jeff Wahlberg also star while Joe and Anthony Russo direct.

The Russo brothers began their careers with small comedies but are best known for directing several installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the two best films of the franchise “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” They have branched out into the action-thriller genre in producing roles with “Extraction” (starring the MCU’s Chris Hemsworth) and “21 Bridges” (with the late/great Chadwick Boseman), but this marks their first directorial effort outside the MCU in nearly 10 years. There are flashes of inspiration and style, but overall “Cherry” is a misstep on nearly every level.

Tom Holland quickly became a fan-favorite after being a scene-stealer as Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War” and has since grown a large fanbase. He continues to charm as the superhero but has also tried to branch out into more serious films, including this past fall’s “The Devil All the Time.” Holland is undoubtably a talented actor and will one day get his big awards, but that won’t start with “Cherry.” He is asked to convey a lot of emotions- love, scared, scarred, angry- but is let down by a very hacky and juvenile script. Some of the lines that Holland is forced to deliver are just too awkward or unnatural to be taken seriously. It is nowhere near a bad performance, Holland has some moments where he carries himself well, but this would be a tough task for any actor to sell.

The screenplay was written by Angela Russo-Otstot (the director’s sister) and Jessica Goldberg, and it is, simply put, not good. There are 4th wall breaks (until there aren’t), awkward narration (until there isn’t), and unnecessary use of profanity (“you want me to punch this guy in the d*ck?”). It jumps around time liberally, hurting any real sense of momentum or continuity, and there are really no redeemable characters in this entire ordeal. I’m not sure how loyal of an adaptation this was of the book, but it in no way made me interested to read it.

On top of the random choices from a narrative perspective, the Russos chose to use random moments of slow-mo, big words on-screen, and not-so-subtle commentary (one of the names of the banks Holland robs is called “Sh*tty Bank”). It makes the entire film come off like a pretentious student project, and for having directed the “Avengers” films that have such vibrant characters and massive scopes, there is very little trace of either of those things here. The only real compliment I can give the direction is towards the very end the bank heist scenes have some tension.

“Cherry” could have maybe been worth the mildest of recommendations if it was a 100-minute movie about a PTSD veteran who robs banks, but coming in at a pretentious and bloated 141-minute runtime there isn’t a real reason to watch this. Maybe if you fast forward past the first hour where Holland is a lovesick puppy dog awkwardly jamming exposition down our throats you can find some enjoyment, but otherwise this film is swing and a miss Oscar bait. Anthony Russo said that the pair made this film as part of the “one for them, one for you” Hollywood mantra, but the end result is more like “one for them, one for nobody.”

Critics Rating: 4/10

‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ a Welcome Return-to-Form for the Character


Much like Kevin Spacey, I always seem to forget how much I love Michael Keaton until I see Michael Keaton pop up on screen.


“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the second reboot in five years of the character, and features Tom Holland reprising his role as the titular hero from last year’s “Captain America: Civil War.” This time we skip over all the origin stories and Uncle Ben’s death and get right into Peter Parker trying to be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, until a new supervillain named Vulture (Keaton) threatens New York City with dangerous weapons. Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. also star as Jon Watts directs.


I love the character of Spider-Man. He’s no Batman (duh) but when done right there is something about a sarcastic teenager in red, white and blue spandex that is just impossible not to find enjoyable. Sam Raimi’s first film back in 2002 redefined the modern superhero genre (and literally changed the start date of the summer movie season from Memorial Day to first weekend of May) and “Spider-Man 2” is universally accepted as one of-if not the-greatest superhero films of all-time. The third film then had a mixed response while the Andrew Garfield reboot series (if you want to call two films no one liked a “series”) were a colossal misfire that resulted in Sony negotiating a deal to give the character back to Marvel, and it will be interesting to see how history remembers those two outings. But enough Spidey history, let’s get talking about this latest rendition.


Just like in “Civil War” Tom Holland shines here. He is just so darn charming, innocent and likable, and that’s just as Peter Parker. His Spider-Man has all the quips that Garfield’s was missing (saying “wait a minute, you guys aren’t the real Avengers!” to a group of bank robbers in Halloween masks) and he is just so much fun and it is clear that Holland himself is having a blast in the role of a lifetime.


The supporting cast are all great, too, with Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Tony Stark aka Iron Man, acting both as a bridge for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this reboot series as well as Peter’s father figure since we don’t get an Uncle Ben this time around. Downey isn’t in the film all too much (every scene he has is in the trailer) but he is as sarcastic and witty as one may hope. Marisa Tomei has some genuine moments as Aunt May, and chooses to make this version of the character a little more nerdy and “try hard” (and clearly younger) than Rosemary Harris’ elderly, always worried take.


Michael Keaton is arguably one of the better villains that the MCU has seen, although that bar isn’t set too high. A blue-collar worker screwed over by a rigged system, Keaton doesn’t want world domination he just wants to make money while getting back at the elites. He gets some scenery to chew and has one genuinely tension-filled scene but overall he feels slightly underused, but it was still great to see him in a villain role, and continuing his mini-career renaissance of his.


There really isn’t too much action here to speak of, a lot of the film focuses on Peter trying to balance high school and being Spider-Man, and he isn’t always punching men in big flying monster suits; more often than not he’s stopping bike thieves and helping give old ladies directions. When the action does hit it is as clean and fun as any film with a $175 million budget and the Marvel brand slapped on it can expect to be, and is all the more impressive coming from a director who had only made small indie dramas (see Watts’ “Cop Car” if you haven’t).


What holds this back from the levels of Raimi’s first two films is a bit of a sloppy narrative here and there. The film isn’t always focused on Vulture and his plan, it just cuts back to him every now and again for a while to remind you that eventually we’re going to get to a big confrontation with him and Spider-Man. There were six screenwriters on this and it’s clear, sometimes the balance between big-budget superhero blockbluster and coming-of-age comedy are seamless, other times they’re jarring.


The film’s trailers also ruin *a lot* so if you have managed to avoid seeing the four of them up to this point, try to keep it that way. Scenes will be going on and suddenly you’ll realize you know exactly how things are going to play out because the trailers all spoil it.


“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a welcome return to form for the titular character and a nice little side-entry into the MCU. When I saw “Spider-Man 2” in theaters as a 10 year old it was the first time I was ever truly left speechless by a film’s greatness; and although “Homecoming” isn’t perfect, it does bring me joy knowing that today’s kids finally have a Spider-Man worthy of being looked up to and enjoyed, because leaving them with Andrew Garfield’s would have been a travesty.


Critics Rating: 7/10

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures