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“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a Kaleidoscope of Comic Book Flair and Power

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If the abundance of Spider-Man reboots and sequels has seemed daunting over the past few years, this is the bold new take to shake the cage of the friendly neighborhood web-slinger. It’s a finely polished take on the superhero that makes the biggest attempt at replicating the comics, both visually and thematically. And while there’s no shortage of Marvel heroes or animated superhero satire at the cinema, this is by far the best film in both genres I’ve seen this year. And for a year that came with the inspiringly progressive Black Panther and the rule-breaking script of Avengers: Infinity War, that’s no small accomplishment.

I’ll get to the story in just a moment, and it is one worth talking about, but I’ve got to address the computer animation which is some of the most experimental I’ve seen in recent memory. Several bold choices were made to replicate the look of comic books, from the obvious of speech bubbles to the trickier use of color bleeding and pointillism in the backgrounds. I found the color bleeding as a slight replacement for the blurring an interesting choice; too little and you wouldn’t notice it or too much and it’d look like watching a 3D movie without the glasses. I noticed it and couldn’t stop marveling at how well it worked for this type of film that already blends so many different choices in style, from 2D animation techniques to great use of action lines and wild uses of color.

Miles Morales in Sony Pictures Animation’s SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE.

But the film has more to offer than just the most dazzling use of CGI. It’s a tale about identity and coming of age that carries a heavier impact than previous depictions of Spider-Man. There’s a new kid in New York City that has been bitten by a radioactive spider. Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a high school kid who would rather work on his street art than tangle with the dangerous villain Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), driven to get back his wife and child by any means. Miles won’t have a choice, however, when Peter Parker (Chris Pine) meets his end and it’s up to Miles to save the world from complete destruction.

But he’s not alone. Thanks to a dimensional rift, characters from other dimensions with the Spider-Man origins come to his aid. One of them is the more familiar version of Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) but he’s much different the Spider-Man that Miles knows about. This Peter is twice the age, twice the gut, and twice as depressed from a series of bad choices he’s made in his life, the most blatant being his choice of sweatpants for his costume. The reluctant Parker decides to help Miles in the ways of the web-slinging in return for being sent home.

Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) and Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Sony Pictures Animation’s SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE.

And there are other Spider-people seeking the same goal. Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) came from a universe where the genders are swapped and she ended up with radioactive blood and a white costume. Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage) comes from a classic detective universe that is so literally black and white that he’s colorblind in Miles’ world. Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) comes from an anime-inspired universe where the schoolgirl fights villains with her robot spider. And then there’s Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) from the cartoony world where the smell of pies make you float and mallets can fit in his pocket.

There’s plenty of fun to be had with that ensemble but the film thankfully never loses sight of the main appeal of Miles. He remains the strongest element of the story with his conflicting relationships to his tough-but-loving cop father (Brian Tyree Henry) and his gangster uncle (Mahershala Ali). When the drama gets tender, it’s warm and heartfelt. When tragedy strikes, it packs the most meaningful of punches without feeling like a tacked-on breather from the frenetic fun. I was surprised at how hard this movie hits, proving to distance itself from the softer blows of The LEGO Batman Movie and Teen Titans Go To The Movies. Where those films just want to poke fun, this movie does all that and still pulls out the big guns to be a “real” Spider-Man movie.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

Spider-Verse is everything anyone could possibly want in a Spider-Man movie and maybe even a little more than that. It’s an everything-sundae of comic book action, fourth-wall humor, serious drama, and the most visually stunning a computer-animated can look without blending into the crowd. When a film can inspire individuality, break your heart, and still have room to make a knee-slapper gag about the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon, it becomes very clear this isn’t your average superhero picture. This is easily one of the best films of the year and, yes, I’m aware of the scoffing that comes from such a statement. And, yes, I’ll say it; I loved the film with a talking pig in a Spider-Man costume.

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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