View Post

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

animation, family film, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

There have been six Spider-Man movies since 2002, seven if you include Venom – not to mention Spidey’s various smaller roles in the Marvel films Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War – so it’s safe to say that the web-slinger has been well represented on the cinema screen. Taking that notion one step further, it’s perhaps fair to say your friendly neighbourhood arachnid chap is perilously close to becoming over-exposed. It’s something of a miracle, then, that the animated Sony film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feels like not only a decent addition to the spider-library, but one of the best flicks in the canon.

The plot focuses on young Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) who, through a plot contrivance that would be a little mean to spoil, finds himself saddled with a 40-something slacker Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) from another dimension.

Dealing with his very new powers, a plot by Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) that may result in the destruction of reality and yet more alternate dimension spider-folk including, among others, Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage!) and motherflipping Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) – not to mention his awkward relationship with overbearing father, Jefferson Davis (Bryan Tyree Henry) – it would be fair to say poor old Miles has a lot to deal with.

In lesser hands this embarrassment of plot riches would swiftly become confusing noise, but happily screenwriters Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman keep the tone light and breezy, with enough self-awareness to have you chuckling through some of the more absurd sections and enough heart to make you genuinely care about the massive cast of endearing misfits.

And all of the above is before we even talk about the animation! Put simply, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is quite possibly the best looking animated superhero film of all time. The juxtaposition of animation styles, comic book iconography and kaleidoscopic collages of vivid colour imbues every damn frame with a jaw-dropping level of detail and artistry that is impossible to look away from. This is the kind of creativity and effort a good animated movie should have and will hopefully raise the bar for some of the lesser entries out there (we’re looking pointedly at you, DC).

Ultimately Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a two hour-long explosion of joy and colour, brimming with laughter and heart, and the kind of film even the most superhero agnostic will adore.

View Post

Kenneth Branagh: Fowl Business

Shakespeare, Marvel, Christie, now the actor/producer/director turns to Eoin Colfer’s best-selling books and a potential franchise starter for Disney. We caught up with Branagh on the set of Artemis Fowl.
View Post

Keira Knightley: Cracking Nuts

The outspoken actress plays the Sugar Plum fairy in The Nutcracker & The Four Realms, which has not only given her an opportunity to play silly, but it also ticks the box as something that she will be able to share with her young daughter.
View Post

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

family film, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

2015’s Goosebumps was a delightful family flick surprise, an amusingly meta take on the hugely successful series of horror novels for young readers by the prolific R. L Stine. In a winning concept cooked up by scenarists, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Man On The Moon, Big Eyes), and co-writer, Darren Lemke (Turbo), Goosebumps put Stine himself (excellently played by Jack Black) at the centre of the action, as the monsters and villains from his many books broke forth from the page to terrorise a small American town. The results were wildly funny and entertaining.

The arrival of the sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, should justifiably excite fans of the original, but it should also set a few alarm bells ringing. None of the creative team behind the first film has returned, and neither have any of the cast members. With the charming Dylan Minnette, Odessa Rush and Ryan Lee sadly gone, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is set in a different town and focuses on three new young protagonists in teenaged Sarah (Madison Iseman), her younger brother, Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor), and his best pal, Sam (Caleel Harris).

Their first interactions with an old manuscript stashed in a supposedly haunted house, and the reappearance of the first film’s scene stealing evil ventriloquist’s dummy, Slappy, at first suggest a ground-up re-take on the mythology set up in the first film, but as the film progresses, the connections happily become much, much clearer. It’s soon revealed that the old manuscript is actually the first, unfinished Goosebumps story by R.L Stine, who just happens to be a former resident of the town. The book’s reopening brings forth another smalltown apocalypse as Slappy takes another run at world domination, backed by a horde of werewolves, aliens, ghouls, witches, and other unsavoury critters.

While the screenplay by Rob Lieber lacks the pep and charm of the first film, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween has more than enough good ideas to keep proceedings well and truly bubbling over, with just the right mix of humour and (family friendly) horror. The young cast is engaging, though the characterisations are a little slight. They’re more than a little shadowed, however, by Wednesday Addams-style breakout character, Slappy, who is afforded far more screen time than he was in the first film. And though he might not appear on the film’s posters, there is also a very, very welcome extended cameo appearance from one of the first film’s major players. While not the equal of its predecessor, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is a worthy follow-up, and fares well in a far less jam-packed creative sandbox.