REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018)

Fun animated film not only spotlights new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, who took over from Peter Parker in the comics in 2011, but it’s alternate universe plot cleverly gives us five other versions of the classic character, too.

The story finds the villainous Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber) building a particle accelerator with Dr. Olivia Octavius, a female Doctor Octopus (Kathryn Hahn), to go to a parallel universe to retrieve his dead wife and son…deaths he blames Spider-Man for. This not only brings a radioactive spider into this universe to bite Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), but Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), an older Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) with her robot “SP//dr” and Spider-Man Noir (a perfectly cast Nicholas Cage), who only appears in black and white. The newly empowered Miles must now, somehow, learn to be a hero, stop the Kingpin before he destroys NYC and return the five spider-variations to their appropriate dimensions.

The plot synopsis above sounds complicated, but flows very easily thanks to a clever script by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman. The film is also very well directed by the trio of Rothman, Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti, who bring an energetic and colorful style to the proceedings. They capture the old fashioned heroics, but with a very contemporary and eye-catching visual presentation. It uses both traditional and innovative animation, mixing styles and techniques while providing an involving story. With Marvel now making Spider-Man movies with Tom Holland as Parker, it would be interesting to see a Sony led series with Miles as Spidey, animated or not. There is also a nice mix of music to go along with the almost non-stop action and the film doesn’t forget to slow down, here and there, to gives us some emotional resonance between characters. The stuff be tween Miles and his dad (Brian Tyree Henry) really works and we can see how Miles gets his sense of right and wrong from his policeman father. It gives the film a nice emotional core, which adds weight to the drama and action. With six films…and a seventh on the way…and two roles in other movies, that’s eight appearances of the Spider-Man character in the new millennium alone. Spider-Verse finds a way to make the character fresh, again…and that’s quite an accomplishment.

The vocal cast are all superb with Moore doing a wonderful job as Miles and Jake Johnson ditto as the older, grumpier Peter Parker. Hailee Steinfeld again proves a star in the making as the spunky Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman, while Cage is perfectly fitting here as the gloomy Spider-Man Noir, a cross between Philip Marlowe and Spidey. We also get an array of Spider-Man villains along with Kingpin and Doc Ock, such as Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone), Tombstone ( Marvin Jones III), The Scorpion (Joaquín Cosio) and The Prowler (a surprise reveal). An eclectic, but very solid voice cast. Interesting how they made such a large cast of characters work when the big budget live-action films just seemed bloated and overcrowded.

Overall, this flick was a lot of fun and didn’t skimp on substance and emotional depth for it’s story. That story flows very well, thanks to skilled direction and a sharp script and the mix of animation styles is exceptionally well done. A solid effort all around that’s a real treat for Spider-Man fans and better than some of the recent live-action flicks. Watch till the end of the credits for a hilarious extra scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) webs.

 

bars

Advertisements

REVIEW: THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (2016)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

edge-of-17

bars

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Nadine Franklin (Hailee Steinfeld) has always walked to the beat of her own drum…and it hasn’t made life any easier when it comes to school and making friends. Her dad was one of the only people she felt understood her and he passed away four years earlier. She is jealous over her super popular older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), especially when her one and only friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating him. Feeling betrayed, Nadine sets out to find her place in the world with a little help from her cynical teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) and Erwin, a nerdy classmate (Hayden Szeto) who might be what she’s been looking for all along, but is too absorbed in her own drama to notice.

Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, this is a poignant, feisty and sometimes very funny coming of age story with a firecracker performance from it’s leading lady. One of the things that makes this comedy/drama so enjoyable is that Craig uses the familiar tropes that we expect from these movies, yet keeps them fresh, so they don’t quite come across as the well-worn clichés they are. Her script paints a portrait of a spirited and slightly eccentric young girl who is just trying to find her place. She doesn’t quite feel comfortable with most of her peers and is sort of left to wander once she feels she’s lost her best and only friend. Nadine embarks on a funny and heartfelt journey of discovery both in herself and in those around her. Sometimes what you are looking for is right in front of you and Nadine needs to find that out for herself. There are some very funny scenes and some well written and sometimes cleverly raunchy dialogue, especially for Steinfeld’s Nadine. If the film, stumbles a little it is that a scene where Nadine goes on a ‘date’ with a boy she’s crushing on, goes perhaps a tad too far in making it’s point that this guy isn’t what she needs. It’s a bit rough and uncomfortable and sticks out somewhat when the rest of the film had a nice balance to it between comedy and drama. Nadine also seemed a bit too smart to make such a dumb mistake and it seemed a little out of character for the socially inept girl even if she was confused and frustrated at this point. Despite some minor flaws this is a well written and directed tale of a young girl trying to become a young woman who remains herself, yet doesn’t feel so isolated in the world around her.

As for the actors, Craig gets good work from a good cast. Hailee Steinfeld gives a spunky and spirited performance as Nadine. The character of the sarcastic loner has been seen before, but Steinfeld injects her with her own personality and really plays well the emotional confusion of being at that age between teen and adulthood. She delivers the lines with a cynicism of an older person, yet portrays a girl not quite old enough to handle some of the things she’s feeling. At that age you overreact to some things and under-react to others and the script and actress nail that very well. Hailee Steinfeld is a star in the making. While it is a one woman show, to a degree, there is some great supporting work. Harrelson once again proves he has become one of the most consistent and durable actors around with his cynical, yet caring performance as Mr. Bruner, Nadine’s favorite teacher and the one she comes to when she needs guidance or someone to rant to. Harrelson deftly captures the balance of a man who knows that sometimes teens need to figure these things out for themselves and yet, sometimes they need a little help. Solid work from an actor who has become a reliable performer in a variety of roles. Kyra Sedgwick is good as Nadine’s self absorbed widow of a mom. She gives us a women who wants to have a better relationship with her daughter, but is frustrated as to how to achieve that. Hayden Szeto is charming and likable as Erwin, a boy Nadine befriends who is a quirky film nerd and may be what Nadine needs, if only she stopped looking past him to realize it. Haley Lu Richardson is likable as the Nadine’s best friend Krista, who is difficultly caught in the middle of Nadine and her brother when she starts dating her popular sibling. Rounding out is former Glee actor Blake Jenner, who adds some nice depth to what could have been the stereotypical popular jock as Nadine’s brother Darian. A very good cast that make a good script come to life.

Overall, I really enjoyed this coming of age flick for taking the clichés and adding a feisty coat of paint to them. It had some nice emotional depth, some heartfelt humor and some delightfully, witty dialogue, even when being a bit raunchy. It stumbles a bit with a scene that was maybe a bit too uncomfortable for it’s own good, but that sequence had a purpose and did serve it, thought bluntly. Otherwise filmmaker Kelly Fremon Craig delivered a spirited and empathetic movie in a film sub-genre that can be crass and crude while forgetting the emotional turmoil of this sensitive age…one thing The Edge Of Seventeen does not overlook.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Nadines.

edge-of-17-rating

 

 

 

bars

BARE BONES: PITCH PERFECT 2, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS and SHARKNADO 3

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

pitch perfect 2

PITCH PERFECT 2 (2015)

The original Pitch Perfect was a pleasantly surprising diversion with a sassy, sarcastic attitude, likable characters and energetic musical numbers, as directed by Jason Moore. The sequel, again written by Kay Cannon, is now directed by star Elizabeth Banks in her directorial debut and it shows. The movie is just short of an outright mess. The story takes place three years later and The Barden Bellas have ruled collegiate A Cappella all this time, even getting to perform for The President. It’s at that performance that they fall from grace, as Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) wardrobe malfunction causes them to become a national embarrassment and they are removed from collegiate competition. Somehow, though, they can restore their reputation and standing, if they can take the international title away from German uber group Das Sound Machine. Unfortunately, the film wastes two thirds on a bunch of subplots, none of which lead to the main story, such as Beca’s (Anna Kendrick) interning at a record label and a new recruit’s (Hailee Steinfeld) quest to sing her own material. It takes up most of the film with these subplots amounting to not much and it’s only in the last 15 minutes where we get back to the plot and then that’s over with two quick and unimpressive musical numbers…and to a predictable conclusion. Gone is the sassy wit of the first film, replaced by numerous and unfunny vulgar bits with the editing giving the film a very choppy and all-over-the-place feel. Beca and Jesse (Skylar Astin), whose romantic story was one of the cuter aspects of the last movie, are separated for almost the entire film and instead we get Fat Amy’s boring attempts to woo a reluctant Bumper Allen (Adam Devine). Add to that, an overall lack of energy and creativeness to the film’s music numbers and you have a very disappointing sequel to a very surprisingly charming movie.

2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

What_We_Do_in_the_Shadows_poster

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014)

Fun found footage comedy tells the story of a documentary being made about a group of vampire roommates, Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) and ancient Petyr (Ben Fransham), who live in a flat in Wellington, New Zealand. While they eagerly await the much revered event, The Unholy Masquerade, their world is thrown asunder when Petyr creates a new vampire, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) who refuses to play by the rules. Not every joke or bit works in this New Zealand horror comedy, but there are some very funny moments and a lot of very clever uses of the time-honored vampire tropes. Co-written and co-directed by stars Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, the two have a lot of fun sending up all kinds of vampire films and Real World style reality shows by cleverly combining the two. They play it straight but not without continually winking at the audience and while it never gets laugh-out-loud funny, there are plenty of giggles to be had, as well as, some amusingly gruesome moments, too. A fun vampire flick/reality show mash-up.

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

Sharknado 3

SHARKNADO 3: OH HELL NO! (2015)

Director Anthony C. Ferrante and writer Thunder Levin return for a third entry in this delightfully off-the-charts series. This entry opens with Fin (Ian Ziering) receiving a medal of honor from and then saving the president as another sharknado hits Washington, D.C. Fin discovers there are more shark storms forming and they are poised to combine into a massive sharkicane. With friend Nova (Cassie Scerbo) returning to his side as a shark killing battle-babe, Fin races to Orlando, Florida to save his wife and daughter (Tara Reid, Ryan Newman) from the greatest Sharknado of them all! Third flick is filled with all the lunacy one might expect at this point with as many cameos from media personalities as there are sharks. The action is the usual over-the-top fun, but what makes this one standout a bit, is a scene stealing Cassie Scerbo as the waitress turned bad-ass shark killer, Nova. Not only is she decked out in black leather, but comes with an armored RV/”Bat Cave” from which she conducts her fish kills. The sassy Scerbo is a blast to watch and it’s time for the character to branch off in her own series of flicks, instead of remaining a sidekick. Overall, this is silly fun and maintains an exuberance for it’s ridiculousness. Also stars David Hasselhoff as Fin’s astronaut dad…can you say sharks in space?

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

 -MonsterZero NJ
bars