Cayle’s Movie Review: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follows Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) as he struggles to fit in at his new boarding school in Brooklyn. After witnessing the death of Spider-Man at the hands of Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber), Miles decides to take up the hero’s mantle. In the meantime, he manages to run into Peter B. Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson), a more disheveled version of the titular hero from an alternate dimension. Together (along with Gwen Stacy), they must try to put an end to Kingpin’s plans to mess with the fabric of time and space itself.

Spider-Verse might be one of the biggest surprises of the year. Sony Pictures Animation doesn’t have the best track record, especially with last year’s Emoji Movie. It seemed like the movie appeared out of nowhere. In my opinion, it’s arguably the most pleasant surprise of the year.

The best thing about Spider-Verse is its script. There is some great character development within the movie. Throughout the film’s duration, for the sake of example, the audience gets to see Morales’ progression from a self-conscious teenager to an outright superhero. However, there are some bumps along the way since he is not accustomed to his new superpower. The film also has some great dialogue, especially between Peter B. Parker and Miles Morales. Spider-Verse’s dialogue is whip-smart and consistently funny from start to finish, just like the numerous incarnations of Spider-Man featured in the movie. Speaking of which…

Another great thing about this movie is its visual style. Throughout most of the movie, Spider-Verse manages to emulate the look and feel of a comic book, especially with its use of Ben-Day dots and narration boxes. In addition to that, the film’s style is also influenced by an urban hip-hop style (which is fitting since Miles Morales is an aspiring graffiti artist to the chagrin of his father). As a side note, the film manages to emulate a stop-motion animation style like 2014’s Lego Movie (which is fitting since Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were involved with the film’s production).  Although Spider-Verse is presented as an animated comic book for most of its duration, various styles are represented by the numerous incarnations of Spider-Man, which include:

  • Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage), who came from an alternate universe in which he is a gumshoe detective from the 1930s. As his name would suggest, he is presented in a monochromatic manner (which also applies to his vision as he could only see in black and white).
  • Peni Parker (voiced by Kimiko Glenn), who is a teen genius who came from a futuristic version of New York. Peni, who is accompanied by her robotic sidekick SP//dr, is presented in an anime style (complete with an intentionally bad overdub).
  • Spider-Ham (voiced by John Mulaney), who is an anthropomorphic pig that is presented as a Looney Toons-esque cartoon character.

I may be nitpicking here, but I had a problem with Kingpin’s design in this movie. I’m aware that this character is constantly presented in a larger-than-life manner, but I felt that his design was at odds with the movie’s realistic setting. If it were an alternate version of Kingpin, I wouldn’t mind as much. On the other hand, that fact doesn’t stop Kingpin from being a well-developed villain.

In my opinion, Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie since 2004’s Spider-Man 2. As I have mentioned before, this film is a pleasant surprise. Spider-Verse has something for everybody with its action and comedy (as well as its drama). Every actor in this movie did a great job with their respective roles. Sony should have promoted this movie instead of Venom. Not only is it the best animated movie I’ve seen all year, it’s also the best superhero movie.

SCORE: 9/10

Advertisements

Cayle’s Movie Review: “Creed II”

In this follow-up to 2015’s Creed, Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago (i.e. the antagonist of the fourth Rocky movie), challenges Adonis Creed to a boxing match. Despite his initial reluctance (since his father Apollo was killed in the ring three decades prior), he accepts the challenge much to Rocky Balboa’s chagrin. Will he be able to defeat Viktor in the ring or will he end up like his father?

Just like the Rocky movies in general, the release of the first Creed movie was an underdog story in and of itself. Not only was the movie a critical darling, it also managed to secure Sylvester Stallone an Oscar nomination. The main question for this review is how it holds up to its predecessor.

The main difference between this movie and its predecessor is that it has a new director this time around. The film’s previous director, Ryan Coogler, had personally selected newcomer Steven Caple Jr. to be this film’s director. In my opinion, I felt that Caple is just as capable of a director as Coogler. Caple manages to surpass Coogler in some respects, especially in the fight scenes.

Another great thing about this movie is how the arcs for most of the main characters come full circle. For Adonis, it was about him coming to terms with his father’s legacy. For Rocky, it’s coming to terms with the death of his rival-turned-friend. The main character arc that stood out in the movie, however, was Ivan Drago’s. In the fourth Rocky movie, he was just a human Soviet propaganda machine. Ivan is now a shell of his former self as a result of his loss to Rocky Balboa three decades ago. Because of this, he is training his son Viktor in order to regain his former glory. However, Dolph Lundgren manages to humanize the character to the point that the audience starts to sympathize with him. I won’t spoil the movie, but there is a great moment involving his character during the second fight of the movie.

My main criticism of the film is with its formula. The first Creed was a more gritty, down-to-Earth installment of the Rocky franchise. Creed II, on the other hand, is a spiritual successor to Rocky IV. At certain points of the movie, the audience could tell where the movie was going. However, formulas aren’t always a bad thing. The Rocky movies in general are known for their formula. Case in point, Creed II uses that Rocky formula to its full advantage.

Overall, Creed II was just as good as its predecessor. The Creed movies pretty much passed on the torch onto Adonis Creed. If this is indeed the final film in the Rocky franchise, this is a good note to end it on. Although I would not be opposed to a third Creed movie, I’m not sure how the series would go on since this movie ended on a conclusive note.

SCORE: 9/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”

In this latest installment of the Fantastic Beasts series of the Wizarding World franchise, the film follows Newt Scamander as he tries to locate the Obscurial Credence Barebone with the help of Albus Dumbledore. In the meantime, the titular Grindelwald has escaped custody and is now setting out to find support for his plans of world domination. The main question for this review is how does this movie stand up to its predecessor?

My main problem with this movie is with its writing. Just like the various miniseries adaptations of Stephen King, Rowling has proved that she is a better novelist than a screenwriter. I’m aware that J.K. Rowling has a lot of ideas for the Fantastic Beasts series (there are supposed to be five movies in the entire series), I felt that she had added too many conflicting ideas into this movie.

For example, there are too many plots and characters within the movie. Aside from the main conflict, there is a plot that revolves around Credence and Nagini (played by Ezra Miller and Claudia Kim respectively) and a subplot involving Jacob and Queenie (i.e., Newt’s American friends from the first Fantastic Beasts movie) amongst others. Newt Scamander, who is supposed to be the focus of the series, is pushed into the background as a result of these subplots. To add insult to injury, most of the plots are hard to follow and go nowhere. As a result of these plots, Crimes of Grindelwald is a very unfocused movie.

In addition to that, most of the movie’s dialogue was mainly exposition. I’m not even exaggerating; a significant chunk of the movie is dedicated to characters giving out info dumps. I hope that J.K. Rowling hires actual screenwriters for future installments of the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

Now for the controversial part: the twist. I’m not going to spoil this movie, but I felt that it was too forced (not to mention that it adds another plot hole to the movie’s ever-growing pile of plot holes).

However, there were some good things about this movie. For example, Johnny Depp as the titular character was easily the best part about Crimes of Grindelwald. Ever since the release of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie back in 2003, Depp has been playing the same character since then. In this movie, however, Depp plays a very charismatic antagonist. I felt that he was one of the few characters in the Fantastic Beasts series of the Wizarding World franchise to get any character development. I liked Jude Law’s performance of a much younger Dumbledore despite his character being shoehorned into the movie. He manages to capture the charm of the older version that we see in the Harry Potter movies. The supporting cast of the movie is also worth mentioning, especially Newt, Jacob, and Queenie (played by Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, and Alison Sudol respectively). I enjoyed them whenever they appear onscreen.

The sad part about this movie (and the franchise in general) is that it has the potential to be great. The best part about the first movie is its worldbuilding. However, there are too many cooks in the kitchen for this movie to work. The movie should stand on its own merits rather than setting up for future Fantastic Beasts movies. J.K. Rowling is too way in over her head in handling the screenplay of the movie. I hate to say it, but she is slowly turning into George Lucas.

SCORE: 5/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: “Halloween (2018)”

In this latest installment of the Halloween franchise, Michael Myers is scheduled to be transferred from a mental hospital to a maximum-security prison on Halloween night. While he was being transported to the facility in question, the prison bus crashes. Michael escapes and manages to wreak havoc on the town of Haddonfield on the fortieth anniversary of his original killing spree. Because of this, Laurie Strode must protect her daughter’s family while engaging in a manhunt for Michael.

The best part about this movie is Jamie Lee Curtis’ portrayal of a much older Laurie Strode. Curtis became a part of horror movie history when she played the character in the original Halloween movie. She manages to channel other popular characters such as Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley in her portrayal of Strode as a survivalist who is overly prepared for Michael Myers’ return.

Another great thing about this movie is its direction. The first Halloween movie is considered by many to be one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. David Gordon Green manages to capture the creepy atmosphere of the original quite well. Even when Myers is not in the shot, the audience manages to notice his presence. He also manages to pay homage to the famous tracking shots devised by John Carpenter. In addition to that, there were numerous homages to the original movies (including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to Halloween III: Season of the Witch).

The main problem I had with this movie is with its continuity. This movie is currently being promoted as the true sequel to the original 1978 movie, and all the movies that followed it are not considered to be canon (not counting the Rob Zombie remakes of course). Say what you will about the questionable qualities of these movies, but I felt that the second movie released in 1981 was a proper conclusion to its predecessor (albeit in a messier manner).

I may be nitpicking here, but another problem I had with this movie is with its subplots that go nowhere.  I won’t go into detail, but they involve a couple of podcasters who are making an episode on the Michael Myers murders and the successor to Dr. Loomis (the actor who played the latter had passed away in 1995). I felt that these subplots had the potential to be great, but they go nowhere.

Overall, Halloween 2018 is arguably the best sequel in the franchise (even if it disregards the other sequels). David Gordon Green pays homage to the original 1978 movie while making it his own. He understands what made the first movie great in the first place. Sure, the movie has its flaws, but it was enjoyable nevertheless. I’m hoping that they don’t milk the Halloween franchise for what it’s worth like they did in the past.

SCORE: 8/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: “Venom”

After a botched feature film debut in the ill-fated Spider-Man 3, Sony tries to give the character of Venom another chance with, you guessed it, Venom. Does Sony have a hit with this movie or are they just delaying the inevitable acquisition of the Spider-Man film rights by Disney?

The best thing about this movie is, unsurprisingly, Venom. Although the titular character is supposed to be antagonistic, there is a reason that he is a favorite amongst Spider-Man fans. He is truly the highlight of the movie.  Another great thing about this movie (besides Venom of course) is Tom Hardy’s performance as Eddie Brock. I felt that he carried most of the movie thanks to his interactions with the titular symbiotic character (also played by Hardy).

On the other hand, Venom is a garbled mess. The main problem with this movie is its identity crisis. The movie doesn’t know if it wants to be a body horror film in the style of David Cronenberg or if it wants to be a more comedic superhero (or anti-villain in this case) movie in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarök. Venom felt like a pre-MCU Marvel movie from the early 2000s. Sure, the movie looked cool, but it was mostly style over substance. While I was doing some research for this review, I found out that approximately 40 minutes of the movie was cut out in order to secure a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. Is Sony aware that R rated superhero movies could be financially viable thanks to movies such as Deadpool and Logan? I feel like the movie is being held back by insecure Sony executives.

Another problem I had with this movie (aside from its cast) is with its characters. Aside from Tom Hardy, I felt there was wasted potential with much of the cast. For example, Michelle Williams is a great actor in my opinion. However, I felt that her acting was severely under-utilized in this movie. Her character barely appears in this movie. In addition to that, I felt the relationship between her character and Eddie Brock was severely underdeveloped. Although the audience is supposed to root for their relationship, there was no chemistry between the two characters. While I thought that Riz Ahmed was fine as Carlton Drake/Riot, I felt that his character was just a generic villain. I felt that there was no motivation for the character.

Overall, Venom felt like an effort by Sony Pictures to retain the Spider-Man film rights for as long as possible. As of this review, the film rights for the Spider-Man franchise are currently in limbo. It’s just a matter of time before Disney acquires it. Otherwise, the movie has no identity.

SCORE: 4/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: “Searching”

Searching

Searching follows David Kim (John Cho) as he struggles to maintain a relationship with his 16-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La) after his wife’s death. After Margot fails to come home from a study group, he initiates a search for his daughter’s whereabouts with the help of Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing).

What’s notable about this film is that it takes place from the perspective of multiple computer screens. Although Searching was produced by the same production company that made the Unfriended movies, I felt that the former had a better execution. This was evident in the first ten minutes of the movie as it shows the happy home life of the Kim family before the death of the mother.

Another great thing about this movie is its writing. The movie presents itself as a mystery from the point of view of Margot’s father as he tries to unravel the whereabouts of his daughter by tracing her Internet history right up to her disappearance. There are some interesting twists and turns throughout the duration of the movie.

While the Unfriended movies were cautionary tales disguised as horror movies, I felt that Searching is an interesting social commentary. During one scene of the movie, for example, a lot of Margot’s classmates were pretending to be her friend in order to get attention from the news outlets even though they barely talked to her in real life.  I haven’t seen a movie make that kind of statement since 2009’s World’s Greatest Dad (and Gone Girl to a certain extent).

As for the cast, John Cho pretty much carries this movie. While he is better known as Harold from the Harold and Kumar movies, I felt this movie showed his real talents as an actor. However, Debra Messing manages to have the best performance of the entire movie.

My main problem with this movie is its uneven pacing at certain points of the movie. I felt this element dragged the movie down. I may be nitpicking here, but I had a problem with its third act. I won’t spoil the movie, but it has to do with the whereabouts of Margot Kim. I know I am supposed to suspend to my disbelief while watching a fictional narrative. For a movie that is supposed to be grounded in reality, however, this was slightly disappointing.

Overall, Searching is a film that manages to live up to its concept. If only we could do the same to Hardcore Henry.

SCORE: 9/10

Cayle’s Movie Review: “BlacKkKlansman”

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman follows the true story of how a black officer from the Colorado Springs police department managed to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan back in the 1970s.

The best thing about BlacKkKlansman is its comedy. The movie tackles its difficult subject with a sense of humor. This is evident in the dialogue between the characters of Ron Stallworth and Flip Zimmerman (played by Washington and Adam Driver respectively).

Another great thing about BlacKkKlansman is its cast. Both Washington and Driver are great in their respective roles. I found out after watching this movie that the former is the son of Denzel Washington. In retrospect, he does have his father’s charisma. Topher Grace was surprisingly great as David Duke. He manages to bring out a folksy demeanor to a despicable real-life character.

The thing about the movie’s director, Spike Lee, is that he is just as much a provocateur as he is a filmmaker. It is especially evident in both the beginning and the end of the movie. This may or may not sit well with the general movie-going audience.

Overall, BlacKkKlansman might be one of Spike Lee’s better movies in recent memory.

SCORE: 8/10