Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Image is property of Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation and Marvel Entertainment

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Film Review

Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn
Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber

Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman

Synopsis: When teenager Miles Morales gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes the hero known as Spider-Man, he begins to discover he isn’t the only individual with these abilities out in the world…

Review: When you think of the hero Spider-Man, and his alter ego, there is usually one name that comes to mind, Peter Parker. After all, his story is one that has been told once or twice in Hollywood in the last decade or so. Yet he is not the only one to have these powers, and the responsibility that comes with it, as there have been numerous other instances of other people like Peter donning the mask and becoming the web-crawling hero. Now,  these other heroes have finally been given their moment in the spotlight.

Though Peter does show up here, the MVP in this tale of Spider-Man is Miles Morales (Moore), a teenager who is not entirely happy with his life after being transferred to a brand new, school. Though while out and about in New York City,  he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and starts to experience things he can’t explain. However, while all this is happening, a nefarious plan by the dastardly Kingpin that involves the opening up of other dimensions, brings several other web-crawlers into play, all from different dimensions. Together these Spider-people must work together to prevent Kingpin from unleash irreparable damage to this dimension and all the dimensions beyond.

Multiple spider senses be tingling…

In terms of the visuals, it’s so unique in comparison to any of the adventures of Peter Parker that we have seen prior. The animation is astonishing in its terms of the colour palette and how vivid it is. It feels like someone took the pages of the comic book itself and translated it onto the big screen, and the results are marvellous. Though the animation is so high paced and stylistic it can be a little jarring upon first glance, once you get used to it, it’s extremely innovative and fits perfectly with the fast paced, high energy style of the film.

Moore leads the way in what is a ridiculously stacked and super super talented voice cast. He injects Miles with that vibrant youthful energy, whilst at the same time still acting like a teenager who’s very unsure of himself. The camaraderie between Miles and all of his fellow Spider-People especially Peter (Johnson) and Gwen (Steinfeld) is especially wonderful. Though without question, the biggest scene stealer of them all is Nicholas Cage as the witty and hilarious Spider-Noir, an absolute genius piece of casting. With so many spidery people in play, the film runs the risk of losing its focus but it strikes that balance superbly well.  Brian Tyree Henry and Mahershala Ali lend their talents to Miles’s father and uncle respectively, and Liev Schrieber gives Kingpin a suitably intimidating presence.

Given that the superhero genre has arguably never been more popular than what it is right now, it is hard to make a film that stands out from the crowd, but Into the Spider-Verse is exactly that. Familiar in terms of Spider-Man films that came before it though it may be, it is undoubtedly a wonderful breath of fresh air. A film that the genre has has been crying out for a film like this to reinvigorate itself. The world of superheroes on the big screen has been introduced to Miles Morales at long last, and with this innovative style of animation, there’s an endless web of possibilities to swing towards.

Meticulously animated combined with a wonderful story and a superb array of colourful and amusing characters, an invigorating breath of fresh air for the superhero genre.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

If Beale Street Could Talk (2019)

Image is property of AnnaPurna Pictures and Plan B

If Beale Street Could Talk – Film Review

Cast: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Ed Skrein, Brian Tyree Henry, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Dave Franco, Diego Luna
Pedro Pascal

Director: Barry Jenkins

Synopsis: After finding out she is expecting a baby with her partner, a young woman and her family seek to clear her lover’s name after he is arrested for a crime he did not commit…

Review: What do you do when only your second feature length directorial feature wins you an Academy Award for its screenplay, as well as (eventually) the Academy Award for Best Picture? This was the quandary for Barry Jenkins, the writer/director of Moonlight, having been catapulted him into the spotlight by the film’s incredible success. The answer to that question, is to make something that’s cut from a similar cloth as Moonlight, a story that tells a very human, emotional journey.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by James Baldwin, we are taken back to 1970s Harlem, where we meet Tish (Layne) and Alfonso (or Fonny as Tish affectionately calls him), two beautiful young people who, having been very close as children, have since become a blossoming couple, seemingly made for one another. However, their romantic bubble is burst when when Fonny is arrested and charged with a horrific crime that Tish insists he is innocent of, and Tish and her family must do whatever they can to clear Fonny of these charges.

On the surface, this would appear to be a simple story about the love that two young people have for each other, and the desperate bid to prove her husband-to-be innocent of the crime he is being accused of. And while it is undeniably beautiful and romantic to watch these two fall in love with each other, much like his work with Moonlight Jenkins’s screenplay goes much deeper than that exploring a variety of themes such as racism, family and the brutal horrors of the justice system that can bring such an unfair injustices to Black communities and devastate these families across America, even when people may be innocent of the crimes they are being accused of.

As the main couple, KiKi Layne and Stephan James are both excellent. Their chemistry is just so honest and authentic that you completely buy them as a couple. You revel in their moments of love and affection for one another, and are equally devastated when they are torn away from one another. As Tish’s mother Sharon, Regina King is just utterly marvellous as she leads the fight to win her prospective son-in-law’s freedom, even in the face of extremely long and difficult odds, and indifference from some members of Fonny’s family to Tish’s plight.

The cinematography from James Laxton is once again sumptuous to look out, even when the circumstances may be extremely bleak, his cinematography shines a hopeful light on the situation of this couple. Nicholas Britell also returns to provide the score, and once again, the work he does to add to the romanticism and by contrast, the heartbreak of this story is remarkable. For those who might have had issues with Moonlight’s pacing, they could well run into some issues again here as Jenkins does take his time to slowly build up Tish and Fonny’s relationship. Though some scenes do feel necessary, others do drag on perhaps for a tad longer than they really need to.

For characters depicted in the 1970s, Jenkins’s characters feel very contemporary and the story and the themes are very topical, but the film never gets preachy with the events depicted on screen. It is above all else, a very sweet story about the love two people have for one another, and the challenge that the human spirit faces when facing the going up against the cruel nature of the world and its institutions, Barry Jenkins has once again crafted something that, in these very emotionally charged times, he has made a film that will speak something to everyone who sees it.

Beautiful and melancholic,sometimes in the same shot, with a fantastic ensemble of well realised characters, Jenkins once again crafts a moving tale of love and hope in the face of terrible adversity.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Widows (2018)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Film4 Productions and Regency

Widows  – Film Review

Cast:  Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Jon Bernthal, Liam Neeson

Director: Steve McQueen

Synopsis: After a bank heist goes horribly wrong leading to the deaths of all the crew, their widows step up to finish what their husbands started…

Review: When as a director, you make one of the most heart-wrenching but extremely impactful pieces of cinema to come out in this decade. A film that landed you the Best Picture Oscar no less, how do you follow that up? For Steve McQueen, following on from his success with the aforementioned 12 Years A Slave, the answer is simple. You team up with another recent Oscar winner and make another exhilarating, heart-pounding piece of cinema. Namely a heist film quite unlike anything the genre has concocted before.

After a team of criminals are caught up in a heist that gets all of them killed, their widows are left in a very desperate situation. Veronica Rawlings (Davis) is the widow of the leader of the crew, Harry (Neeson). Not long after her husband’s death, she receives a rather uncomfortable visit from crime boss Jamal Manning, (Brian Tyree Henry) the target of the botched heist. Demanding repayment of the stolen money, and given a rather tight window in order to do so, Veronica has the plans for what would have been her husband’s next job. Needing her own crew to pull it off, recruits the other widows who also lost their husbands in the same heist, for a new mission to score the money that their husbands stole. Conceptually, though this may sound like your average heist film, in execution, it is a very different beast.

The screenplay, co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn adds deep political subtext to this story that really gives the film a unique feel to it. Furthermore with such powerful women at the centre of this gripping story, in the era of the Me Too movement, it feels all the more powerful and relevant in modern times.  What McQueen and Flynn’s script does so excellently is give each woman involved in this daring heist a significant amount of development. Though they come from different backgrounds, each woman absolutely stands on her own two feet and all give excellent performances.

Leading the pack and fresh from her Oscar success, Viola Davis is once again superb in the role of Veronica. She is a woman who has been to hell and back again, both with events in her past and in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s demise. Yet her fiery spirit keeps her going through this turbulent time. Likewise for Alice (Debicki) and (Rodriguez), both of whom are also dealt with a torrid set of consequences in the wake of the heist that robbed them of their spouses. But with the resolute Veronica at the helm, there is no time to mope, they have some work to do.

Though the women have the spotlight absolutely deservedly on them, Daniel Kaluyya’s portrayal of Jamal’s brother, Jatamme is magnificent and absolutely terrifying in equal measure. A VERY different kind of role especially in comparison to his Oscar nominated performance in Get Out, but with every moment he has on screen, his cold demeanour and brutality is enough to send shivers down the spines of the audience. This is a man whose path you do not want to cross under any circumstances.

With the theme of powerful women front and centre, McQueen also brilliantly weaves political drama into the story. There is one moment in particular that really stands out in terms of how the scene is filmed. And by doing it this way, it really sends a startling message about modern day America and in particular modern American politics. It is another film released this year that feels very timely in terms of its themes, whilst also being not afraid to pull any punches, or to let the bullets fly.

A heist/thriller with a lot to say for itself, boosted an impeccable stellar ensemble cast and bold direction, another exhilarating addition to the filmography of Steve McQueen.