The Films of Jon Watts
Cop Car (September 3/15)
Directed by Jon Watts, Cop Car follows a pair of aimless kids (James Freedson-Jackson's Travis and Hays Wellford's Harrison) as they stumble upon a police cruiser and subsequently take it on a joy ride - with the movie, past that point, detailing both their exploits as well as the efforts of the police officer (Kevin Bacon's Sheriff Kretzer) to whom the automobile belongs. Watts, along with coscreenwriter Christopher D. Ford, has infused the early part of Cop Car with a deliberate yet evocative sensibility, as the filmmaker effectively establishes the three central characters and the rural atmosphere within which they reside - with the watchable vibe heightened by the periodic inclusion of unexpectedly (and impressively) tense sequences (eg Sheriff Kretzer attempts to break into a car using just a shoelace). It does become increasingly clear, however, that Watts isn't quite able to maintain a consistent tone throughout, and there's little doubt, too, that the boys' naiveté becomes more and more difficult to swallow as the movie progresses. (It is, for example, easy enough to believe that a couple of kids would play inside a seemingly abandoned police car, but asking the viewer to swallow that they would also take it for a ride and play with the guns inside is beyond the pale.) And despite a brisk running time of 86 minutes, Cop Car isn't quite able to make it to the finish line without fizzling out to a rather palpable degree (ie the climax lacks the tension possessed within certain other preceding sequences) - with the movie nevertheless worth a look almost solely due to Bacon's incredibly ingratiating, entertaining performance.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 17/17)
Spider-Man returns in yet another iteration of Stan Lee’s most famous character, with the MCU-set storyline following Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as he attempts to balance a seemingly average high-school existence with continuing efforts at fighting crime in the guise of his heroic alter ego. There’s certainly a lot worth enjoying and admiring within Spider-Man: Homecoming – the movie, armed with impressively strong performances, is unquestionably a substantial improvement over the pitiful The Amazing Spider-Man – and yet the film never quite manages to reach the plentiful highs attained by Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. (Even the much-maligned third installment, Spider-Man 3, ultimately fares better.) It’s clear, eventually, that the egregiously padded-out running time of 133 minutes plays an instrumental role in the film’s somewhat disappointing vibe, as filmmaker Jon Watts, working from a screenplay by six (!) credited writers, delivers an almost episodic narrative that’s been crammed with a series of entertainingly larger-than-life set pieces – including over-the-top action sequences set on the Washington Monument and New York’s Staten Island Ferry. But that absence of a concrete throughline prevents Spider-Man: Homecoming from wholeheartedly becoming the engrossing adventure one might’ve anticipated, with the film ultimately able to transcend its blandly watchable atmosphere on only a small handful of occasions. (The movie's high-water-mark is an absolutely riveting confrontation between Holland and Keaton’s respective characters.) It’s clear, too, that the predictably loud and special-effects heavy climax ensures the picture concludes on a fairly lackluster note, and it is, in the end, impossible to label Spider-Man: Homecoming as much more than a slightly above-average yet far-from-stellar Marvel production.