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

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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.

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: SAFTEY NOT GUARANTEED and TAKE THIS WALTZ

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Decided to focus this double feature on two charming and very entertaining indie comedy/dramas that might have flown a bit under the radar but, have familiar faces, good performances and are refreshingly un-Hollywood…

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SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012)

Safety Not Guaranteed is a really entertaining and offbeat romantic comedy from director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly that tells the story of Darius (Aubrey Plaza) an intern at a high profile Seattle based magazine whose first assignment is to assist self-centered reporter Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) in writing a piece on a man who placed a personal ad looking for a time travel companion. While Jeff uses the story as an excuse to look up an ex-girlfriend who lives in the area (Jenica Bergere), Darius befriends the placer of the ad, Kenneth (Mark Duplass) and soon finds a bond with the eccentric and lonely man. Director Trevorrow  crafts a sweet and quirky tale of two loners who find each other over some very strange circumstances. And while the film sometimes plays like a drama, there are some laugh out loud bits and there is always an offbeat humor running underneath. The cast do really well in bringing their eclectic characters to life with Plaza and Duplass doing a great job of showing the progression of two people learning to trust each other and then discovering much deeper feelings as they get to know each other. We get to watch a sweet relationship form between these two lost souls all the while being teased with the notion that maybe Kenneth may not be so crazy after all… or maybe he is. The other subplot between Jeff and Liz also shows a sweeter side of the cocky Jeff and possibly humbles him a bit as well and is nicely realized by actor Johnson. To elaborate anymore would be to spoil a really nice indie flick that has some pleasant surprises. Also stars Kristen Bell as woman with ties to Kenneth and Karan Soni as accompanying intern Arnau, who Jeff decides to motivate out of his shell. A quirky, original and entertaining indie.

3 and 1/2 hearts!

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TAKE THIS WALTZ (2011)

One of my favorite things about this charming indie drama was that I really enjoyed was just how real the relationships in the film came across. Writer/director Sarah Polley creates a freshness and realness to this story of a happy young married couple Margo (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen) whose happy life is challenged when Margo meets and falls for neighbor and artist, Daniel (Luke Kirby). Margo thought she had what she wanted but, the free spirited Luke makes her question whether she is really happy with Lou or just thinks she’s happy. As Lou becomes focused on writing a cookbook, Margo begins to explore what she really wants… or is it. And that’s the thing that I felt was so real about this charming little movie. Margo’s answers are never clear as in life they sometimes aren’t. Are we really happy or just convincing ourselves to settle for what we have? Is it human nature to always think there is something better for us out there and thus were never are truly content or satisfied? These are true life questions and questions we ask ourselves as we watch Margo pursue a course which could cost her everything. And, of course there is the age old question, of the grass always appearing greener. I really enjoyed how director Polley gave the film a very refreshing style and really made the characters seem like real people. They all have their little quirks and habits and they make decisions based on emotions and are sometimes selfish and not careful about hurting those around them… and they don’t always know what they really want. The performances are strong across the board with Michelle Williams giving another great characterization of the almost childlike Margo, who’s very likable despite her selfish pursuits. Seth Rogen surprises as Lou, a man who obviously loves Margo but, has his own goals and is a little too focused on such to notice his wife is troubled. Luke Kirby is good as the artist Daniel who, much like Margo, decides to selfishly pursue their attraction despite knowing she is married and he will likely undo that. Rounding out the main characters is a perfectly cast Sarah Silverman as Lou’s sarcastic alcoholic sister Geraldine. All in all, this is a refreshingly un-Hollywood indie that takes a look at real people with real emotions making real and sometimes selfish and stupid decisions. Something we are all guilty of and that’s why we can identify with these people and how love or, what we think is love, can be such a confusing factor in our lives. And, most of all, is there such a thing as true happiness or is it an illusion we create ourselves? A very interesting drama that does have a quirky sense of humor to go along with the more serious moments. Also loved director Polley’s visual style and how she made use of the film’s charming Canadian neighborhood locations.

3 and 1/2 hearts!

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