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

Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

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

Screenplay: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman

117 mins. Rated PG for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language.

IMDb Top 250: #26 (as of 1/13/2019)

 

I was pretty certain that the Sony Animation Spider-Man movie would disappear into obscurity. Sony, as a company, has been throwing everything at the Spider-Man IP and hoping something would stick. After making a deal to get Spider-Man into the MCU, they proceeded to make a Venom movie not featuring Spider-Man, talks of a Kraven the Hunter film and a Silver and Black film, and then there’s Into the Spider-Verse. None of these properties excited me on the outset, but I was at the very least quite thankful to see Miles Morales finally get the big screen treatment.

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore, Dope, The Pretenders) is a teen struggling with his identity. He attends a boarding school that he doesn’t feel at home in. He looks up to Spider-Man but his father, Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry, Hotel Artemis, TV’s Atlanta) sees the masked crusader as a menace. All Miles wants is to have purpose, and when he is bitten by a radioactive spider and develops powers similar to Spider-Man’s, he finds that this may be his chance. Matters are complicated, though, when he runs into Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson, Tag, TV’s New Girl), a Spider-Man not from his universe. That’s not all. Spider-People from all different universes are converging on Miles’s world, and they must work together to fix the problem and get them all home while they still can.

Into the Spider-Verse is an assault on the senses, and I mean that in the best possible way. My eyes actually needed to adjust to the intense color display and terrific voicework displayed in the film. This film actually forced a new animation amalgam to be attempted in order to give it that “jumps off the comic book page” look that makes the film so damn pretty. The process involved rendering the 3D images and then working over them with 2D drawing to give it a comic book panel look. It’s gorgeous and altogether the most impressive feat of the film.

Beyond all that, Into the Spider-Verse has such an impressive and relatable story. Miles is a kid who doesn’t fit in. He even becomes Spider-Man but he doesn’t believe that he is worthy of the mantle. Peter B. Parker is a man who has lost the woman he loves because he was incapable of being the man he needs to be. Even Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, TV’s Ray Donovan), the Kingpin, has an understandable motive for his menacing plot. During all this, I didn’t feel the stakes of the film very much, and that’s a fault, but it was so fun to watch that it didn’t bother me like it should’ve.

Into the Spider-Verse subverts expectations so well. There are genuinely surprising moments, twists, and turns in the film, something not easy to do with a character/franchise that is seven films over the past twenty years. The Stan Lee cameo in the film just has so much more packed within it, especially given our tremendous loss this past year. The film even sends up the post-credits scene with theirs, and I won’t spoil it, but it’s my favorite moment in the film.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a strange movie, and it’s also totally brilliant. It exists perfectly on its own, even though some would argue that it is a sequel to the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man films (and I agree). It’s to Spider-Man what Cabin in the Woods is to horror films, in that it validates everything without being beholden to any of it. But beyond all that, it’s an amazing story of finding oneself among the craziness of life. It’s a special damn movie. Go see it.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

In Memoriam: Cultural Icon Prince Dead at 57

 

(Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Hey everyone, sad news to report today as I’m sure you’ve already read. The purple one is gone. Prince, a music, fashion, and all-around cultural icon, is dead at age 57.

This hits me pretty close to home, both as a fan of his music and film and as a resident of Minnesota, where the famed musician rose to fame. I currently reside in Minneapolis, and was floored by the sudden and shocking passing of the musician. I know there had been reports of an illness or flu recently, but nothing that spelled out this endgame. I am terribly saddened right now.

I last saw Prince in an episode of New Girl two years back, and he was just as amazing there as he had been anywhere else in his career, enthusiastic and weird and brilliant.

What are your memories of Prince? How will you remember him most?

 

RIP Prince.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 5th Birthday!] Your Highness (2011)

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Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel

Screenplay: Danny McBride, Ben Best

102 mins. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.

 

Some movies are divisive, with praise and derision in equal measure. Your Highness isn’t even one of those. But I’m still going to watch it for you.

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Your Highness is the story of two brothers and a quest to end all others. One of them, Fabious (James Franco, TV’s 11.22.63, 127 Hours) is a rugged and valiant prince on his way to rescue his beloved Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel, TV’s New Girl, Elf) from a frightening and perverse warlock. The other brother is Thadeous (Danny McBride, This is the End, Sausage Party), a fat loathsome slob of a prince only interested in getting laid, a task not so easy for the failure of a son. The two set out to complete Thadeous’ first quest and gain his father’s respect. Along the way, they meet Isabel (Natalie Portman, V for Vendetta, Jane Got a Gun), who also has reasons to defeat the wicked warlock.

The premise is rather simple and rather stupid. According to director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Our Brand is Crisis), the concept came from a game between him and McBride about coming up with hilarious titles and then making up a movie premise about them. Apparently, this was the best one. McBride then proceeded to write a draft, and then most of that was thrown out in favor of improv. How this movie even got made is a shock, and how it managed to bring on multiple Oscar nominees also confounds.

McBride cannot carry a movie, funny as he is. Franco (who did sword training and flew back and forth between set and his classes across the country) and Portman (who only signed on to get Black Swan financed) do capably enough to keep this flimsy story going.

All this is important as it creates a movie that doesn’t really want an audience. That being said…

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I laughed my ass off at a lot of this movie, and I have to applaud them for trying to craft a unique mixture of fantasy and raunchy comedy. Still not a great movie, but it isn’t the worst viewing experience I’ve ever had.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 10th Birthday!] The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

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Director: Garth Jennings

Cast: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Anna Chancellor, John Malkovitch

Screenplay: Douglas Adams, Karey Kirkpatrick

109 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements, action and mild language.

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was perhaps doomed from the start. A big-budget adaptation of the wackiest space adventure ever conceived could only accidentally succeed or admirably tank.

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Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman, TV’s Sherlock, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) is fed up. His home is about to be demolished to form a hyperspace motorway, and he barely escapes thanks to a friend named Ford (Mos Def, The Italian Job, Begin Again) who might not even be human. As the two hitchhike across the galaxy alongside fellow Earthling Trillian (Zooey Deschanel, TV’s New Girl, Elf) and Galactic President-turned-fugitive Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell, Moon, Better Living Through Chemistry) in an attempt to find the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

From a script by original author Douglas Adams aided by Karey Kirkpatrick, the film has everything that made the novel great. The performances are quirky enough to serve the source material while real enough to fit the film. I love that director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow) seamlessly blends the main story with interjecting narration from the talking Guide (voiced by Stephen Fry).

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I think the major problem that people had with this film is that if you hadn’t read the book, you didn’t know what you were getting into. The novel was considered somewhat unfilmable because of its innate sense of insanity. Many thought they would get an interesting sci-fi comedy but they hadn’t expected to see anything like the finished product, because there really is nothing like this finished product. Another example of a film being misrepresented by its marketing. Another example of a great franchise squashed far too early.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Let’s Be Cops (2014)

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Director: Luke Greenfield

Cast: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Jr., Nina Dobrev, Rob Riggle, Keegan-Michael Key

Screenplay: Luke Greenfield, Nicholas Thomas

104 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence and drug use.

 

When an actor tries to make that jump from television to film, it’s a big deal. The transition can go three different ways. 1) Success: the actor creates a film career practically overnight, or 2) Failure: the actor can lose all chances of a film career, but will at least exist on the small screen, 3) Super Failure: the actor loses his television career in the process. I’m hoping Jake Johnson (TV’s New Girl, Neighbors) is only #2.

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Let’s Be Cops stars Johnson as Ryan, a guy who had all the chances after high school, but who never really took off the way he thought. The same is true of his friend Justin (Damon Wayans, Jr., TV’s Happy Endings, Big Hero 6). Yeah, seriously the same character practically. When the two come across some truly lifelike cop costumes for what they think is a costume party, they decide to just pretend they are cops, which gets them into deep doo-doo when they get involved in a major drug crime in this new film from director Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door, Something Borrowed).

This film’s tone is all over the place. It tries too hard to be a comedy when it should be serious, and it comes off as too serious when it tries to be a comedy. These main characters are all so flat and similar that I wasn’t interested at all. I liked Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street, Dumb and Dumber To) as fellow real cop Segars. He was a nice infusion of actual comedy.

Johnson and Wayans are both funny when they get the chance to shine, but Greenfield’s script with Nicholas Thomas is riddled with unfunny moments throughout.

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I started out liking Let’s Be Cops, but soon it became a film with somewhat unlikable and terribly underwritten characters just kind of doing things in front of the camera. It’s a shame because I really like Jake Johnson and I want to see his career continue. Fingers crossed that everyone else finds this film as forgettable as I did.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Have you seen Let’s Be Cops? What did you think? Was it an undercover success or a Super Failure? Let me know!

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