Strange love 

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX - UPSIDE DOWN Season 3 of  Stranger Things hits Netflix this week.
  • Photo courtesy of Netflix
  • UPSIDE DOWN Season 3 of Stranger Things hits Netflix this week.

Summer loving is a thing, at least in the movies. How many teen movie plotlines have revolved around chasing the opposite sex around for those two months of no school? From Dazed and Confused to Grease to Dirty Dancing, those warm-month romance stories always seem to play.

And the trend continues. Stranger Things 3 just dropped on Netflix yesterday and the gang of nerdy ‘80s kids are kicking it hard this summer—hanging at the mall, eating ice cream, and saving their shitty little town while the adults flail. Apparently, the character dynamics in this season are just as engaging as the upside down and monsters, and word on the street is that it’s OK to watch the first three episodes at a leisurely pace, but once you hit Part 4, get ready to binge the final five hours. Plan accordingly.

Summer vacation and saving the world is also up on screen at the Whistler Village 8 this week with Spider-Man: Far From Home, a summer-vacation comedy, teen romance and superhero action flick that actually works pretty well.

Marvel’s most entertaining flicks of late have been their more comedic, sillier offerings (I’ll take Thor: Ragnarok or the Ant-Man movies over Avengers or Captain America) and now that the Avengers storyline has run its course, comic nerd insiders are claiming the next phase of the Marvel universe will be hung on Spidey’s shoulders and, in vein with the comics, carry a lighter tone. Far From Home is supposed to be the tone setter.

And it works. The appeal of Spidey has always been the mash-up of super-duper action with Peter Parker, regular teen dude. And this flick, helmed by returning director Jon Watts, nails the mix quite well. The character tension between Peter and love interest MJ (played by Zendaya) is just as engaging as the crash/boom/save-the-world bits.

To be fair, the action scenes are also decent, including an illusion-meets-bad-acid-trip looking sequence where reality shifts and swirls as Peter/Spidey battles to make sense of what’s real and who’s who. Visually stunning, the scene feels both very “comic booky” as well as very influenced by last year’s animated hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (one of the best flicks of 2018).

Even at 129 minutes (stay for the credits), if Spider-Man: Far from Home is a sign of things to come, there could be some fun in the Marvel Universe future.

On the other end of the summer movie spectrum, Midsommar also opens this week and it’s probably the most badass, messed up and batshit awesome movie we’ll see this year. Keep-an-eye-on-her actress Florence Pugh (Fighting with my Family) stars as a young woman who, after a tragic loss, decides to join her douchey boyfriend and his even douchier buddy to a super remote midsummer festival in Sweden with their not-as-bad Swedish friend who grew up there.

Amidst beautiful cinematography, Swedish pagan rituals and a drawn out narrative, director Ari Aster (Hereditary) essentially takes the themes of grief and the disintegration of human affection and turns it into a thriller/horror/mindfuck of a movie that’s a bit like the original Wicker Man (fish out of water in a weird cult-like setting) but everything happens in the continual sunshine of the Arctic Circle.

More cruel than terrifying, and requiring narrative patience, Midsommar is not for everyone, but for fans of cerebral, art-house thrillers like Mandy, Under the Skin, Let the Right One In or even Eraserhead, Midsommar will grease your maypole. Pugh deserves extra credit for knocking it out of the park in what will probably be remembered as the greatest break-up movie of all time. An anti-summer romance for the ages.

And if the idea of two months without school really bothers you, Crave just dropped all three seasons of teen private eye Veronica Mars, which is hard not to love. Happy summer!

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