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: SKIN TRADE, BIG GAME and GRUDGE MATCH

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SKIN TRADE (2014)

Routine action adventure pairs action icon Dolph Lundgren (who also produced and co-wrote) with Thailand action sensation Tony Jaa. Lundgren is Newark, N.J. cop Nick Cassidy who teams with Thailand cop Tony Vitayaku (Jaa) to take down crime lord and human trafficker Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman). There is nothing we haven’t seen before in this fast paced and sometimes ludicrous action flick, directed by Thailand director Ekachai Uekrongtham, but, there is a B-Movie entertainment to be had and it’s fun to see Lundgren pair with someone who speaks English far worse than he does. There is also fun in seeing Lundgren and Jaa together and against Ron Perlman, no less. The action itself is routine for the most part, as is the plot, but go in expecting that and it can provide some fun and unintentional chuckles. Also stars Michael Jai White and Peter Weller.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BIG GAME (2014)

Offbeat Finnish action adventure is based on a comic book and tells of young teen Oskari (Onni Tommila) who is sent into the woods, with bow and arrow, as part of a coming of age hunting trip to prove himself a man. At the same time a terrorist (Mehmet Kurtuluş) and a traitorous Secret Service agent (Ray Stevenson) take down Air Force One over those same woods and are on the hunt for the escaped President Of The U.S. (Samuel L. Jackson). Obviosuly, he is found by Oskari first, who vows to prove his manhood by delivering the President to safety, despite being outnumbered and outgunned by his pursuers. Directed by Jalmari Helander and co-written by he and Petri Jokiranta, this is actually a fun little movie despite being preposterous and silly. Jackson and young Onni Tommila get along well and are a fun team. It’s not to be taken too seriously and doesn’t holdup to today’s Hollywood blockbusters, but it has it’s heart in the right place and can be lighthearted, if not forgettable, fun.

3 star rating

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GRUDGE MATCH (2014)

On paper, making a movie about Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone playing two over-the-hill boxing rivals who get together for one more tie-breaking fight, must have sounded like a great idea…and it could have been. But the film takes itself far too seriously, instead of just having a good time with the silly premise and just going with it. Director Peter Segal (who’s made a career out of mediocre and mundane comedies) directs with a leaden hand from the script by Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman, a script which makes the mistake of downplaying the humor and tries to make a fairly serious flick out of this nonsense. De Niro and Stallone do the best they can with the weak soap opera-level material, but neither really acts like they are completely onboard with this. It’s a shame, the premise could have been a lot of fun with writers and a director who recognized it’s real potential. Also stars Kevin Hart as the son of a Don King-like fight promoter and Kim Basinger as the girl who got between the two boxers back in the day. Snooze Match is more like it.

2 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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