What to watch | Spider-Man must save the multiverse, friends bicker on a wine tour and escape-room mayhem

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Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) must save the multiverse in Spider-Man: No Way Home. (PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing)
Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) must save the multiverse in Spider-Man: No Way Home. (PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Spider-Man: No Way Home ****

Sci-fi action. With Tom Holland and Zendaya. Director: Jon Watts.

Picking up at the closing moments of Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019), Spidey’s secret identity as Peter Parker (Holland) has been exposed. 

The lives of his aunt May (Marisa Tomei), best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) are upended as they’re scrutinised by the US government and hounded by the media, so Peter comes up with what he thinks is the perfect solution. 

He asks fellow Avenger and sorcerer Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to create a spell that would make everyone forget he’s Spider-­Man, but when it goes wrong, enemies from other realities, ­including Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), start to appear.  

This third Spider-Man instalment in the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) ups the ante from the previous relatively small-scale movies. 

Spidey has already battled aliens for the fate of the universe in the Avengers films but this sequel amplifies the threat the wall-crawler faces to even greater proportions. Now the whole multiverse of parallel dimensions could come crashing down. 

Introducing a multiverse where there are different versions of the same people opens up the plot to all sorts of crowd-pleasing possibilities for fans of the beloved super­hero and movies, but to say more would spoil the delight of finding out for yourself where all this leads. 

It also creates the opportunity for lots of jaw-dropping action and spectacular special effects, but director Watts never loses sight of what makes MCU films truly resonate with audiences: the characters. 

The villains put Spidey through the wringer physically, but their dialogue as they spark off one another and manipulate him, have far more impact. Peter’s bond with his loved ones gives the film its heart, with the sweet relationship between Peter and MJ especially endearing. Holland is once again immensely likable in the lead role and ably supported by the top-class cast.

Three-quarters through the movie the pace slackens too much, but thanks to an unexpected ace up its sleeve and a heartrending twist, the finale manages the tricky balance of satisfying viewers looking for fun and escapism as well as those wanting something deeper.

2021. 148 MIN. 10-12PG L. AT THE CINEMA.

Wine Country *** 1/2

Wine Country, Emily Spivey, Paula Pell , Maya Rudo
Eat, drink and be merry (from left): Emily Spivey, Paula Pell and Maya Rudolph in Wine Country. (PHOTO: Netflix)

Comedy. In this hilarious film, super organised Abby (Amy Poehler) plans a Napa Valley get­away in honour of the 50th birthday of her friend Rebecca (Rachel Dratch from Saturday Night Live or SNL). 

Their pals, homebody Jenny (Emily Spivey), post-op Val (Paula Pell), weary mom Naomi (Bridesmaids’ Maya Rudolph) and workaholic Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), are all keen to relax and reconnect. 

Yet as the alcohol flows, tensions from the past boil over, real-world uncertainties intrude on conversations and the women begin questioning their friendships and futures. 

This is Poehler’s feature directorial debut, which she co-wrote with SNL writers Liz Cackowski and Spivey, who also worked on Poeh­ler’s show Parks & Recreation. She delivers her signature brand of witty, offbeat humour while crafting a women-centred plot that’s brilliantly funny and heartwarming. 

The story is told through vignettes of each friend and their thoughts about one another, which quickly and cleverly makes the friendship dynamics and characters’ personal issues the key focal points. 

Poehler and her writing team have effortlessly created a story centred on women with a humorous but meaningful look at the challenges facing a diverse group of female friends in their late forties while ­also delivering a dash of satirical commentary on getting older. 

The integral role of music in the film is fantastic. If you enjoyed Parks & Recreation and Bridesmaids (2011) or anything these ­actors have done, you’ll enjoy this movie.



Escape Room: Tournament of Champions ** 1/2

Taylor Russell, Thomas Cocquerel, Logan Miller, Es
Trapped (from left): Taylor Russell, Thomas Cocquerel and Logan Miller in Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. (PHOTO: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Horror. This sequel to Escape Room (2019) is about six strangers with something in common who find themselves in a dangerous room and must use clues to escape. If they don’t solve the puzzles in time, they die. 

Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben ­(Logan Miller) are the only survivors from the first film and they’re now on the trail of the mastermind behind the escape rooms created by the mysterious Minos Corporation. 

Both must still process the trauma of their ordeal when they once again end up in the clutches of the deadly game. Four other winners, including Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel), who also made it out of escape rooms are locked in with them – but this time only one of them will survive. 

One chamber leads to another and they’re full of nightmarish challenges, from deadly shockwaves to lasers that cut you up into blocks. 

The first film’s concept was original and had everything that a modern thriller should be. Unfortunately, the sequel doesn’t offer the same excitement. A bunch of new characters are ­introduced but they remain ill-­defined, making it difficult to care about them. 

The riddles in the first film were also more sophisticated and made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. The same can’t be said of the second movie, although some scenes do put you on the edge of your seat. 

On the plus side, filming took place in Cape Town and it’s fun to spot local actors in the cast, such as model Tanya van Graan, Anton David Jeftha (Legacy) and Avianah Abrahams (Lioness).



A: All ages   D: Drugs   H: Horror   L: Language   N: Nudity   P: Prejudice   PG: Parental guidance S: Sex  V: Violence

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