Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Review

I know exactly what you are thinking: Do we really need more Spider-Man movies?

That question came along when young Tom Holland took on the mantel for last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. In fact, the question came along when Andrew Garfield led the Amazing reboots back in 2012. (Actually, we were pondering the importance of Spider-Man back when the abysmal third film happened and Peter Parker thrusted his crotch at us in big screen glory.)

Regardless, Sony and Marvel have decided that we still haven’t had enough of the web-slinging hero. Or even his world, with action/romantic comedy Venom coming out a mere few months ago.

Despite all this, the animated romp Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is exactly what we need to re-energise the friendly neighbourhood hero.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse revolves around the second person to take on the blue and red spandex mantel in Ultimate Marvel – Miles Morales. The highly-intellectual young boy is caught between his parent’s high expectations as well as wanting to do ordinary youngster things like slack-off or sneak out of his boarding school. When Miles and his Uncle are “vandalising” a disused train station, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider. Confused by the turn of events, Miles goes searching for answers and winds up in the middle of a multi-universe plot that spits out different iterations of Spider-Man. Together, they must put the world back in order.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has three directors, five producers, two screen writers, and stars a whole heap of voice-acting talents as well as several different Spider-People. That’s a lot of plates to keep spinning for nearly two hours of run time. Which it does. Which it does so gloriously well.

The focus on Miles Morales, voiced by Dope’s  Shameik Moore, grounds the Spider-Man legend in a modern day tale. Here is a kid who is caught between many different worlds; a black and Hispanic mix-raced teenager who is smart but also is willing to break the rules, under the influence of his police-officer father and his slacker uncle. A young adult who is thrust into this responsibility and now has several voices urging him to do the right thing. Morales makes a fascinating character to lead this heroic journey. With Moore’s earnestness aiding to an impressive, depth-filled arc, Morales levels up much more than we’ve seen Parker do on screen.

That’s not to say Parker is any less of a character here. In fact, we get two different versions of him on-screen and each comes with their own struggles and plights. Voiced by both Chris Pine and Jake Johnson, it’s easy to see which is used for comedy and who isn’t. The actors play the epitomes part well. Speaking of the voice cast, it’s a stellar one that consists of Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Haliee Steinfield, Kathryn Hahn, Kake Bell, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, and Liev Schrieber.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is imbued with self-referential humour that isn’t afraid to poke fun at even itself. Yet unlike Lord and Miller’s rambunctious films The LEGO Movie or 21 Jump Street, the comedy rarely overrides the heart of the story. So whilst you may laugh at Mulaney’s Spider-Ham, an imitation of classic Warner Bros cartoons, or giggle at the super-serious black and white Spider-Noir (Cage imitating the likes of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney) there is a substantial amount of emotion as  Morales learns his own important Spider-Man lessons.

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There’s also great action sequences and peril. Utilising the style of Morales’ co-creator Sara Pichelli’s, Spider-Verse is an absolutely spectacle of colour exploration. With animators working on a second a week, the hard-work pays-off here. The inventive explosion of colour is masterfully handled. It’s unique, and highly beautiful. The striking array of scenes is a feast for your eyes.

This review doesn’t do this film much justice, I can honestly tell you that this film is superb. It is beyond the Spider-Man lore, bringing together old familiar beats and brand new ones all at the same time. It’s as good for adults as it is for children, with many people hanging on through a great credit sequence to an impeccable end-credit sting. Every plate is spun amazingly by passionate and determined creators.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is smart, energetic, and visceral….and I cannot wait to watch it again.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now 

Avengers: Endgame – Review

It’s all been leading to this…

That’s what Avengers: Infinity War touted last year before we were flummoxed by that brutal ending.

It’s all been leading to this. But it’s really Endgame that feels true to this sentiment. Decades of strategic story-telling, movies filled with world-building, and characters who we have grown with, it has all been leading to this. An epic conclusion to that battle of last year.

Now we’re in the Endgame now. But does this chapter offer a satisfactory finale?

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Endgame follows the events after Thanos snapped his fingers and dusted half of living creatures out of the Universe. With him retiring on a planet many miles away, and the Avengers scattered across time of space, the world and our favourite superhero team seemed lost, without hope. But, of course, this is a three-hour movie so the Avengers have plans. Plans we cannot discuss here, but plans nonetheless. There is so much lost…can the team save the day?

Avengers: Endgame is an emotional roller-coaster. The Russo Brothers certainly take us on a ride with a story so bombastic that you barely feel the extended run-time. There is a craft here – with the pair weaving so many stories and get still making you feel every single second on the screen. It’s hard to not be impressed by the work on display here and as you dive deeper into the film, wondering how the team could possible pull it off, you are tugged along happily. Poignant and earnest, Endgame is, for the most part, a great depiction of allies and grief.

Of course, it isn’t just the sentimentality that is impressive here. Like with most superhero movies, it is the action that you come for. Endgame is no different and the fight sequences offer equal moments of jubilation and sorrow.

The biggest struggle with the film is the tonal shift. Endgame cannot quite figure out how it wants to tell the story because it is used to being funny. One third of this film is weird and hilarious but it shouldn’t be, right? The jarring cut from sadness to laughter to really bizarre moments doesn’t quite gel so when we are catapulted back to the drama, it’s a struggle to wrap your head around it which does damage the final third fairly.

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Truthfully, Infinity War is a much better set-up that felt much more weighted. Endgame doesn’t quite stick it’s landing, mainly because it shifts attitude so dramatically that the emotional stakes are lessened somewhat.

Still, this reviewer didn’t leave dry eyed and maybe allowing the audience to drop its guard with humour was so Endgame could deliver its final emotional punches with a bit more of a sting. The film serves the actors and the characters more so than it does story – that’s OK because that’s what matters this time around.

Endgame is a somewhat messy but ultimately satisfactory conclusion to the Avengers Saga with no clear path on how the MCU is going to carry on. The world has opened up, and that is possibly the best part of this Avengers story.

Avengers: Endgame is out 25th April! 

Gemini Man – Brand New Trailer!

Ang Lee is one of our most accomplished directors who is best known for his Academy Award winner Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain.

Now he returns with Will Smith clone drama Gemini Man.

The film revolves around an elite assassin who has a mysterious young operative predicting his every move.

With allusions to Looper, this does still look interesting. What do you think?

Gemini Man is out later. 

Monty Python’s Life of Brian – 40 Years On…

When it comes to splitting Monty Python fans, you have a couple of choices. On one hand you have people who deem The Holy Grail the best of the movies, the other Life Of Brian (And that odd one who prefers Meaning Of Life. Yes, I am talking to you.) Well, I am here to settle all of that. If you haven’t guess already by the title this, then I am saying that Life Of Brain is better. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love The Holy Grail. In fact, if I were to personally pick between the two, I’d pick Grail every time. It’s silliness, the music, the comedy; it’s the winner of my heart. But sitting down, and actually critically examining the two then Life of Brian is the champion.

Life of Brian tells the story of Brian, a normal citizen of Judea. But Brian has been plagued all his life. After all, being born in the same place and the same time as Jesus (the barn next door none the less,) it’s hard to not have people confusing you with the Son of God. However, after a series of unfortunate events, Brian is soon believed to be the Messiah and is followed around by a group of religious fanatics. Pestered by the Romans, hounded by the believers and pestered by his mother, poor Brian can’t get a break as his life leads him up to a dramatic finale.

As with every Monty Python film, television show, or stage show, the comedic timing and deliver are impeccable. Every scene is full of lashings of farce. From the rude Roman names to correcting Latin graffiti; there is a slice of humour everywhere Brian turns. There is no denying that the comedy troupe excel in comedic timing and their hilarious characters. Each of the Monty Python crew play multiple characters within the movie and play them convincingly well.

That’s great but we are used to this. After all, they play multiple characters in their television series and they do in Grail. What raises Brian above it all is the satire. Not actually a satire on the story of Jesus itself it is cleverly a stab at the worshippers. In one poignant scene, Brian tells the populous that they must all think for themselves and they eerily repeat what he says. It’s a poke at people who put too much faith into their beliefs that causes them to be narrow minded. In one instance, they kill a man for even angry denying Brian as the Messiah. It’s weirdly accurate and scarily real.

Controversially, they caused a hell storm. But that’s the brilliance of Brian. Instead of people appreciating the satire, people would instead angrily boycott the film believing it to be blasphemous against Jesus.

If you don’t believe the sheer anger of religious leaders, watch the debate Michael Palin and John Cleese with Malcolm Muggeridge and Meryvn Stockwood, The Bishop of Southwark on BBC show Friday Night Saturday Morning.  After the opposition missed the opening 15 minutes  where they showed the clear separation of Jesus and Brian, the two men soon delved into jibes and name calling. Watch whilst the two comedians who are being accused give a well thought out and researched points are subjected to schoolchild taunting. It’s fascinating to watch.

I digress; much like Jesus, Life of Brian’s message was taken and misinterpreted by the mass. But cleverly they used it to their advantage. In Sweden they advertised it as the film “so funny, Norway had it banned.” Life of Brian is so much more than the quotes you pass your fellow geek friends and fathers (me and my Dad try to slip one in at least once a day.) It is a clever and historical (See “What did the Romans ever do for us,” moment,) movie that gets legions of fans yearly.

And bloody hilarious.

Happy 40th Monty Python’s Life of Brian. 

Dragged Across Concrete – Review

by Tom Beasley 

The oeuvre of S. Craig Zahler is defined by a number of characteristics. His films are extremely violent, from the caved-in skulls of Brawl in Cell Block 99 to that one scene towards the end of Bone Tomahawk that immediately induced a thousand yard stare in everyone who saw it.

Crucially, though, Zahler’s movies also take their time. They deal in bloodshed, for sure, but they also deal in the calm before the storm.

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Dragged Across Concrete is no exception. At a bum-numbing 159 minutes, it’s a lengthy slog of a movie, and one that makes no apologies for that excess. It also makes no apologies for its politics or its casting. This is a film that positions the intensely problematic Mel Gibson and the gun-loving Republican Vince Vaughn as racist cops, who are suspended by Don Johnson’s police chief when video footage of them using excessive force on a Latino dealer hits the headlines. “Politics are everywhere,” says Johnson, adding that “the entertainment industry formerly known as the news needs villains”.

And it’s in dialogue of that stripe that Dragged Across Concrete emerges as Zahler’s most difficult work from an ideological perspective. The foregrounding of Gibson is a blatant act of trolling and Zahler’s dialogue juggles casual racism, jibes about how the line between men and women has now “blurred” and discussions about the threat of a young white woman being attacked by black men that are an unsettling reminder of the recent controversy around Liam Neeson. Apparently, in this world, throwing cups of soda around is an obvious precursor to rape. At times, the film is like sitting in a pub with Piers Morgan, Jeremy Clarkson and that Tory MP who keeps blocking up-skirting laws.

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Certainly, there’s no room in Concrete for women. Female characters do cross the orbit of the protagonists occasionally, but they’re either framed as cartoonishly emotional – one woman literally cannot bring herself to leave her newborn son to go to work – or bizarrely laissez-faire. Vaughn’s character’s girlfriend is black, but seems curiously unmoved by his suspension for a racially motivated misdemeanour. Black actor Tory Kittles is nominally the third lead, but the film’s lack of interest in him would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.

Mel and Vince – it’s impossible to divorce these characters from the men behind them, despite the best efforts of Gibson’s 70s porn tache – respond to their suspension by staking out a drug dealer in the hope of liberating some cash from him. When it becomes clear that the dealer is actually embarking on a more deadly crime, the cops become heroes again, apparently, as they follow him around wondering when and whether to intervene. This is a film about masculinity and male duty that feels grounded in a time when men were men, and men were also racists.

The story inexorably winds towards a violent conclusion, in which bullets fly and arterial fluid leaks onto grubby asphalt. But it all feels weightless, even when a character is literally fiddling around inside another’s internal organs. Zahler has replaced the style and power of his previous work with a Trollface meme. He’s like a basement-dwelling Reddit user daring you to be ‘triggered’ by him, just waiting to share that ridiculous copypasta about “sexually identifying as an attack helicopter”.

Like so many purveyors of shock, Zahler has seemingly forgotten why he wanted to shock people in the first place.


Dragged Across Concrete is in 19th April