Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Take a moment and realize that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the first Marvel (related) feature film to hit theaters following the passing of the iconic Stan Lee. That realization hits you when you go to see this movie which strongly states its case as the premiere animated achievement of 2018!

For once, when it comes to Spider-Man, we get a nice and most welcome change of pace. Instead of navigating the origins of Peter Parker, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follows the hero’s journey of one Miles Morales, a Brooklyn youth who swings into action to save his universe from the perilous intentions of Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk before reality as Miles knows it is ripped apart at the seams. Burdened with the tall task of saving the world, Miles has to learn to utilize his newfound powers with under the tutelage of Spider-people from other alternate realities from Peter B. Parker, Gwen Stacy, Peni Parker, Spider-Ham and Spider-Man Noir.

2018 should go down as a marquis year for animated achievement. I have seen many great animated films this year but I LOVED Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and I dare say with the Amazing visuals and animated style paired with the Spectacular storytelling and execution, this may not be just the best animated film of the year but perhaps the Ultimate Spider-Man movie!

Bob Pershietti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman directed a superb film that really shook audiences out of Spider-Man movie fatigue! That is to say that with all of the reboots of the Peter Parker canon, it was like we were growing tired of seeing different takes of the same-old Spidey make it to the big screen over and over with a different actor portraying him but with Spider-Verse we get a genuine breath of fresh air that is exciting, captivating and energizing at the same time and Phil Lord and Rothman should be credited with a vibrant story that fans will not refuse to gush over!

The voice talents of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Liev Schreiber, Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Valez, Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicholas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Chris Pine, Jorma Taccone, Joaquín Cosio, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, were all fantastic!

The way this movie was animated, it’s like a playful take on an actual comic book that is fresh and invigorating. Heck, one could say that this movie is probably the best true “comic book movie” of 2018!

Daniel Pemberton’s music is great, Robert Fisher Jr.’s editing is outstanding, Justin Thompson’s production design is stupendous, Dean Gordon and Patrick O’Keefe’s art direction is practically flawless; the technical expertise that went into this animated marvel was so authentic, it’s like you could feel the love that went into making this movie and you love everything you see!

I’m ashamed to admit that I went into Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and underestimated it. This movie blew me away! It’s entertaining, it’s unique and I definitely believe that this is the crown jewel of animated features of the year; in fact, I think this is one of the best movies of 2018!


Review: A Wrinkle in Time

Madeline L’Engle’s beloved story is adapted to the screen at the hands of another prominent storyteller in Ava DuVernay. A Wrinkle in Time has been celebrated for decades in print and like so many great literary works, it finally made its way onto the big screen.


Image by Disney

In DuVernay’s adaptation, the heroine is Meg Murray, played by the very strong newcomer in Storm Reid, the daughter of two brilliant and respected NASA scientists. Meg is still reeling from the disappearance of her father, played by Chris Pine, who was on the verge of discovering a means of faster than light travel before his sudden disappearance.

Meg is approached by three celestial beings named The Mrs., Which, Whatzit and Who, and inform her that her father is in a distant region of the universe and may be in grave danger. Meg, her classmate Calvin, and her adopted brother Charles Wallace must venture out into the universe to find her father before an evil force finds him first.

I found A Wrinkle in Time, tedious, uncomfortable and sloppy and in my disappointment, I remembered that directors like Ava DuVernay are human; for every great movie like Selma, there is a movie in a director’s body of work that just doesn’t work and A Wrinkle in Time is a movie that just doesn’t work.

Visually, this is a very pretty movie but the plot is a lot to wrap your head around; these concepts of warriors of light, “The It”, tessering, it just doesn’t mesh well with the aesthetic of this picture and it doesn’t flow seamlessly like in other fantasy adventures like The Chronicles of Narnia for example. Ava DuVernay wanted this movie to feel like a labor of love, but in reality, this movie is just a haphazard mess once the inciting incident occurs.

Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell wrote this movie for the screen and it was difficult to follow. The plot and the pacing felt drawn out, devoid of wonder and I wasn’t enthralled by what was going on.

The cast of the film was decent enough. I liked Storm Reid, Pine, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kahling, Zach Galifianakis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Others like Deric McCabe, Levi Miller and Michael Peña left me very underwhelmed and other actors like André Holland, David Oyelowo, Belamy Young, Rowan Blanchard and Conrad Roberts, I felt as though were wasted.

On a technical level, this movie is its own worst enemy with so many factors that went into its production as positives were zeroed out by the negatives. The positives include the films visual effects, Paco Delgado’s costumes, Naomi Shohan’s production design, the art and set decoration and the makeup and hairstyling team.

The negatives? Oh boy! The cinematography and camerawork courtesy of Tobias A. Schliessler felt awkward and discomforting, Spencer Averick’s editing was more miss than hit as the film felt difficult to keep up with, Ramin Djwadi’s music and the soundtrack of the film was too heavy throughout and it felt like it was there just because of want more than need and didn’t enhance the quality of the picture.

A Wrinkle in Time is a story that was designed to take its audience away to new worlds and was set up to be this grand adventure about a battle between light and darkness. Unfortunately, it falls short of both taking audiences away and it was more misadventure and a losing battle. I felt as though my time was wasted more than wrinkled.

Movie of the Week: A Wrinkle in Time

A scientist on the verge of an epic discovery that could dramatically alter the rules of space and time, vanishes. This scientist left behind a daughter named Meg, who is approached by three individuals who believe that she is the key to finding him before a calamity occurs. Ava DuVernay’s new film is adapted from Madeline L’Engle’s beloved novel and is my featured film for this week. March at the movies begins with A Wrinkle in Time.

Director: Ava DuVernay

Written by: Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell

Starring: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland and David Oyelowo

What am I expecting to see?: My expectation for A Wrinkle in Time is to be a visually dazzling experience with a rousing and adventurous plot that truly honors the source material. A Wrinkle in Time promises to be a grand, sweeping adventure with fascinating characters and I have confidence in Ava DuVernay to truly do right by L’Engle’s book and characters and bring them to vivid and vibrant life.

Review: Wonder Woman

I’ve had a good reason to be hard on the efforts of the DC Extended Universe over the past few years; especially last year considering my thoughts on their previous two pictures: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. This year, the producers of the DC Extended Universe look to turn the page on last year and seek to do so with their first superhero adventure starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.


Image by Warner Bros. and DC Comics

The film opens with Gadot as Diana Prince who receives a parcel from a new friend that compels her to reminisce on her earlier years. From her upbringing on the island of Themiscyra, home to the Amazons, where she was raised by her mother Queen Hippolyta, trained by her aunt Antiope, and encountered a man named Steve Trevor, who would guide her to the world of man on a journey that would change her life and the world at large forever.

To reiterate: I’ve been hard on the DC Extended Universe and I had good reason to be so. Their previous films have compelled me to set the bar low on their films going forward and I had to go into Wonder Woman with a low set of expectations. That being said, I must be blunt: THIS. MOVIE. IS. GOOD!

I must give credit where credit is due. Producers Geoff Johns, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Charles Roven, director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg crafted a solid origin story with coming-of-age themes that culminated in a very engaging, charming and the most entertaining DC movie to come out in years! I was satisfied with how they handled this movie; it wasn’t perfect but this was a great effort that really paid off!

I thought that the strength of this movie lied solely with Gadot’s performance meshed with Heinberg’s script and Jenkins’ execution. Wonder Woman is basically looking at the outside world with the perspective of childlike innocence, guided by a man who exposes her to the good and bad that a world at war has to offer someone who doesn’t exactly need to help.

If Gadot’s introduction in Batman v. Superman didn’t sell you on her ability to embody this iconic character, than this movie will most assuredly convince you! It was a treat watching her carry this movie and her on-screen chemistry with Chris Pine is splendid! Whether Diana is trying ice cream for the first time or feels concern or sympathy for the wounded soldiers on No Man’s Land, she just embodies the strength, compassion and innocence in this iconic character and she is relatable to audiences.

While I enjoyed watching this film, I only wish that the film could have done more with the supporting characters such as Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremmer, Eugene Brave Rock, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya, Danny Huston and David Thewlis. I also hoped that the film would take more time to explore and examine Themiscyra, the Amazons and their cultures.

The cinematography of Matthew Jensen was solid, Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music was satisfactory, Martin Walsh’s editing was solid, the production design of Aline Bonetto was good, Lindy Hemming’s costumes were very good, the visual effects were to my liking and technically Wonder Woman was very well put-together to give this character the strength to stand on her own.

Wonder Woman clearly raised the bar for films coming from the DC Extended Universe because what separates this movie from the films that came before it: fun! This movie allowed itself to have its own natural fun and that allowed the audience to have fun watching it; this is leaps and bounds better than any DC film that came before it!

Movie of the Week: Wonder Woman

For too long, the fight against the forces of evil has been spearheaded by men. The greatest heroes who have fought for humanity against foes driven to bring hurt and pain to the innocent are great men, but still men. The time has come for a woman to rise against those who would do harm to those who cannot protect themselves. It is time. It is her time! The Princess of Themiscyra, with shield on one arm, a sword in her hand, and a mystic lasso at her hip will rise to bring an end to the war that will end all wars. Diana’s crusade for justice is only the beginning of a journey that will place her in a league of her own. This is the story of a new age of heroism. This is the tale of Wonder Woman.

Director: Patty Jenkins

Written by: Allan Heinberg

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Florence Kasumba, Ewen Bremmer, and Saïd Taghmaoui.

What am I expecting to see?: The last three films produced from the DCEU have underwhelmed to say the least, especially the films that flew under Warner Bros. and DC Comics from last year, so Wonder Woman is going in with an advantage of a low-bar already set. In the limited time we’ve seen her in the role already, Gal Gadot has done enough to sell audiences on her as Wonder Woman and now that she has this feature film to elevate herself, I’m hoping that she has clout to seize this initiative of being a powerhouse film hero in her own right.

An Assessment that is Summer 2016 at the Movies

I certainly didn’t see every movie that came out this summer but I certainly tried to see every movie of note that was released. To say that the films released between the period of mid-May to the twilight of August and speaking of the twilight of August: we’re in it! The Rio Olympics, which I did not bother watching at all, came and passed, NFL preseason is halfway through, the back-to-school advertisements are out in full force, and even though the final official day of summer arrives in early September, I’m ready to call it: summer’s over. That being said, I’d like to take a look at some of the highlights and lowlights of the last few months at the movies!

Summer 2016’s biggest surprise: Hell or High Water

Man, I’m still aglow over this knockout comtemporary Western gifted to us by director David McKenzie and rising star screenwriter Taylor Sheridan! In case you missed my review, Hell or High Water stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as two bandit brothers determined to keep a bank from foreclosing on their family farm by elaborately robbing various branches throughout Texas. Jeff Bridges plays the grizzled long-in-the-tooth lawman nipping at their heels as they tear through the Lone Star State and with a solid 3-man leading ensemble, excellent writing and superb execution, Hell or High Water came out of nowhere and scored a vintage cinematic homerun!

Summer 2016’s biggest disappointment: Now You See Me 2

I can’t remember if I cried when I saw this sequel come untied, but something touched me deep inside, the day Now You See Me 2 proved, the magic had died. The magic, being the magic, fun and the unexpected twists and turns from the original Now You See Me, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and others about a team of magician thieves who pull off criminal feats of awe-inspiring dexterity. Now You See Me 2 is merely one of the many unnecessary sequels of this summer no one asked for and honestly, director Jon M. Chu should have kept this rabbit in its hat.

The superhero movie of the summer: Captain America: Civil War

This decision was not even close! X-Men: Apocalypse failed to live up to the hype, and Suicide Squad was doomed by its own shortcomings, but even if this wasn’t by default, Captain America: Civil War had it all! This star-studded Marvel grand showcase pitted Avenger against Avenger is a thoroughly well-thought out execution of philosophy, orchestrated by powers beyond the Avengers’ field of vision and started Phase Three of the Avengers Initiative with a bang!

Summer 2016’s best animated film: (tie) Finding Dory & Kubo and the Two Strings

2016 was a year to celebrate animated features and two of my most anticipated animated films of this summer did not disappoint at all! Disney & Pixar should probably take home a prize for actually making a sequel that was done right for audiences everywhere were taken back to the sea to check in on Marlyn, Nemo and Dory who set out on a grand adventure to realize who she was and where she came from. Finding Dory was absolutely precious and it should be celebrated not only as one of this summer’s best films but one of the best films of this year, but not so fast!

The latest animated adventure from Laika and Focus Features is a genuine marvel in itself. Kubo and the Two Strings follows the tale of a boy with a magical knack for origami and storytelling and he embarks on a quest to inherit his father’s legacy while supernatural forces are hunting him and his companions down. I’ve always respected the work of Laika and Focus Features’ stop-motion animated adventures but Kubo and the Two Strings is a genuine treasure and a highlight of this summer.

Summer 2016’s best visual effects: Captain America: Civil War


Image by Marvel

Again, this is another competition the super soldier won without much difficulty and that’s saying something considering the summer is the season where visual effects run rampant throughout movie theaters. Whether it was the fight between Team Cap and Team Iron Man or the final battle between Iron Man and Captain America, this movie was a feast for the eyes.

The best movie of the summer: Hell or High Water


Image by CBS Films

I should really proclaim this as one of the best film’s I’ve seen this year. Oh wait. I think I did!

The worst movie of the summer: The Legend of Tarzan

There were many to choose from over the past few months. To narrow my choice down, I thought about a movie that I had no high expectations for going in whatsoever and a movie that attempted to or didn’t even try to meet those shallow expectations and what I was left with is The Legend of Tarzan, starring Alexander Skaarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Djimon Hounsou, in David Yates’ take on the legendary character crafted by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This movie was like watching a snake crawl back into its old skin after shedding it and it was rather unnatural to digest.

Fare the well Summer 2016. I did my best to see your best and I certainly will try to forget your worst, if indeed I did bother seeing them. Anyway, I’m on to fall. Check on my blog for any updates or news or my next film and I’ll see you at the movies.

Review: Hell or High Water

Who doesn’t love a good Western? A classic American tale set in the untamed frontier about a clash between a sheriff, a cowboy or a lawman against an outlaw, a Native, or a man looking to kick up a little trouble in a sleepy town holds mass appeal for film lovers but I’m not talking about a “vintage” Western ala High Noon, Unforgiven, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, True Grit or Hang ’em High.

Set in modern day West Texas, Toby and Tanner Howard are venturing into a new enterprise: bank robbing. The brothers take it upon themselves to settle their late mother’s debt and prevent Texas Midland Bank from foreclosing on their family farm and they set out to rob branches of Texas Midland Bank and use the money they get from their heists to pay off their loans.

The activities of the Tanner Brothers don’t go unnoticed. Soon-to-retire Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton and his partner Alberto Parker are on the trail of these mysterious bank robbers and are intent to deliver justice upon them.


Image by CBS Films

This is the plot of the contemporary western Hell or High Water, directed by David McKenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan, screenwriter of Sicario. My late father loved a good western but Hell or High Water is not a good western. Hell or High Water is one hell of a western!

This was what I’d like to call a “can’t miss movie” and this summer, a movie of Hell or High Water’s caliber has been far and few between. Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Dale Dickey lead this exemplary cops and outlaws film, featuring Jeff Bridges in rare form, Chris Pine who delivers his best performance that I’ve seen and a solid performance by Ben Foster.

The shining star of Hell or High Water isn’t any of the actors though. The man who steals the show is none other than screenwriter Taylor Sheridan.

There is no doubt that Sheridan planted his own personal stamp on this tale of family and justice and did so with cunning, wit, bravado and expert craftsmanship. The idea for the Howard Brothers to steal from the banks their family owes money to to repay them, is a stroke of genius; no doubt that Sheridan is still riding the wave of success he rode when he crafted the framework for Sicario and the writing for Hell or High Water is just as impactful.

There is no doubt that this is one of the most original films of the year, perhaps the best written film I’ve seen since Zootopia.

David McKenzie did a fine job directing this movie. I would argue that maybe the directing was good because he had an awesome screenplay to work with but the directing of this movie can certainly be regarded as top-class. This is certainly a high-point for McKenzie as well as films released in 2016 because the plot and how the plot unfolded on screen held your attention and doesn’t even bother to let go.

Does this mean that Hell or High Water is 2016’s Sicario? I can’t say for certain because even though the writing is similar they are different films with different tones but I am certain that this should be recognized as a sensational film as Sicario was.

The supporting cast including Buck Taylor, Paul Howard Smith, Kevin Rankin, Margaret Bowman, Marin Ireland, John-Paul Howard, they’re essentially extras but they do their utmost to lift the core cast as possible and they are effective in their brief but significant roles.

Technically, this is a well put-together movie. Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography is well-done; I specifically enjoyed the opening of the film with that intricate tracking shot of the parking lot, serving as a sort of scouting the area technique, for the brothers before they rob their first bank.

The editing flowed seamlessly between the brothers and the rangers. Jake Roberts did a fine job of balancing between the subplots between the lawmen and the outlaws without giving too much or too little to anyone. I also particularly liked how well-executed the shootout sequence was. Going back and forth between Tanner scoping and shooting the police while Marcus was getting into position to scope and take out Tanner was smooth.

Tom Duffield’s production design was sharp, Steve Cooper’s art direction was good, the costumes of Malgosia Turzanska added to the authenticity of the film, this movie certainly went the distance to deliver a vintage western level of authenticity and that authenticity was rich in my opinion.

I consider Hell or High Water a sleeper film for any awards, but hands down, this was an original movie that I wouldn’t hesitate to go to the theaters and see. Hell or High Water certainly is one of the best films of the year and a genuine western through and through.