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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BARE BONES: A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS (2017)

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A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS (2017)

Sequel takes place at Christmas time with our three Bad Moms, Amy, Kiki and Carla (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) getting visits from their own moms (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon respectively). This turns their lives upside down and threatens to ruin their holidays.

Second flick is again written and directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas and sadly lacks the energy and buoyant fun the original was, while doubling up on the melodramatic schmaltz. The first flick was routine and predictable, but it had attitude, some cleverness and a charming cast. This holiday installment is flat, rolling out all the “Christmas in ruins” movie clichés without any ingenuity and the vulgarity lacks the wit that made it work the first time around. It replays a lot of the shtick of the original movie and even with the addition of the bad grand-moms, it comes across as stale. If there is a redeeming quality, it is the cast once again shines and makes the best out of the weak material with Baranski, Hines and Sarandon playing their thinly written parts well. Veteran actresses who deserved better material, as do the Bad Moms trio, Kunis, Bell and Hahn, who also give it their all. Sequel co-stars Jay Hernandez again as Jessie, Peter Gallagher as Amy’s dad and a funny cameo by Kenny G. Maybe they should have taken a little more time developing this instead of rushing it out a mere 15 months after the first flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BAD MOMS

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BAD MOMS (2016)

Pretty mother of two, Amy (Mila Kunis) has had enough! She works hard at her job, drives the kids to school, does their homework and makes dinner. Her lazy immature husband doesn’t help and even gets caught having a virtual affair with a woman online. Amy, along with new friends and fellow moms Carla (Kathryn Hahn) and Kiki (Kristen Bell), decides it’s time to take a break from and have a little fun!

Written and directed by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas this is a routine and predictable comedy, but thanks to a witty script and charming cast, it is a lot of fun. The film has a buoyant mood to it, as Amy throws her responsibilities aside…and her cyber-cheating husband out…and decides to live life for herself for a bit. Sure the situations that result are totally routine, such as wild parties, picking up the hot single dad (Jay Hernandez) in a bar and starting up a fierce rivalry with the snooty PTA head (Christina Applegate), but Kunis is a delight in the role, even if she comes across as a little too young to be a mother of two kids close to their tweens (She’s 33, so it works). There is some vulgarity, but it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and is witty enough to work and be funny. The supporting cast are also having a blast too, especially Kristin Bell and it translates to the audience even if you have seen it all before. A routine but fun, funny and sometimes very sweet comedy. Added bonus is the interviews with the actresses and their real moms during the credits.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE VISIT (2015)

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THE VISIT (2015)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Found footage flick has fifteen year old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her thirteen year old brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) traveling to stay a week with the grandparents they never met. Their mother (Kathryn Hahn) had a fight with her parents before they were born and has not spoken to them since. Becca is a wannabe filmmaker and decides to document this first meeting. They arrive at the grandparents’ rural farmhouse and everything seems fine…at first. Soon Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) seem to be exhibiting odd behavior, especially grandma at night. It is at first explained away by Pop having a slight case of dementia and Nana having a condition called Sundown Syndrome. But as the longer the kids stay, the weirder and more disturbing behavior they encounter. Something is very wrong with their grandparents and it is something far worse than simple ailments of the elderly.

As written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, this darkly humored horror is a mixed bag. On the plus side, there are some very creepy moments, as the kids sneak peeks outside their room door at night and see grandma doing some bat-crap crazy stuff. Their is also some very odd behavior in the day, such as grandpa’s habit of stockpiling his dirty Depends in a shed. There are also some sequences that bring about nervous giggles, as there are some very successful darkly comic moments, too. The downside is that after awhile we start to get tired of this routine. The behavior never leads to anything truly shocking or scary as, to be honest…we are kind of expecting what comes when we finally get it. Not only is Shyamalan a bit too renown for having a ‘twist’ in his flicks, but the big reveal is pretty much along the lines of what we were expecting. It’s no surprise. We know what Becca will discover, long before she does. There is some nice tension as we watch the kids spend their final night with Nana and Pop Pop, now that the cat is out of the old bag, but even that never really becomes nail-biting despite a violent conclusion to this ‘family’ reunion. Again, it ends the way we expect it to. Also, the film never really feels like found footage. The shots are too good and everything, including the creepy antics, always feels staged and not captured. Even with that, there is the now traditional ‘why are you still filming’ moments, especially in the last act. Finally, the character of Tyler is one of the most annoying teens captured on film in some time. He’s a germ phobic kid who fancies himself a gangsta rapper and also has decided to use female pop stars’ names in the place of curses…what? His dialog bits are an endurance test, especially when he starts rapping and Shyamalan, for some reason, has the grating youngster rap about his experience with his ‘grandparents’ over the end credits. It’s an endurance test to sit through and kills any mood the climax had previously created. This character almost singlehandedly sinks the movie. He’s that annoying.

The cast of unknowns are for the most part solid. Young Olivia DeJonge is likable and a good heroine and she is believable as a teen with artistic aspirations. Not sure what to say about Ed Oexenbould. His character is like visual fingernails on a chalkboard, so it’s hard to say if he is that bad, or based on how the character was intended by Shyamalan, was he that good? He has the worst dialog, which isn’t the actor’s fault. Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie are perfect as the, at first, kindly grandparents then really disturbing and creepy when Nana and Pop Pop start to get their crazy on. The two are fun and deliver goosebumps and chills appropriately and make this work as well as it does. Kathryn Hahn has limited screen time, yet somehow does convey the sense of a woman who believably had such a traumatic disagreement with her parents.

Overall, I have mixed feeling about this. There are some truly creepy moments and some uncomfortably funny ones too. The cast, for the most part, do a good job with the characters. The film stumbles by heading exactly where we are expecting it to go and over-utilizing one of the most annoying kid characters in recent memory. The film also never really feels like actual footage and the grandparents behavior gimmick starts to get tiresome at a point when it should kick into overdrive. There should have been more tension in the last act, but instead it was predictable. Worth a look, but with moderate expectations.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 depends.
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