Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, rated PG

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a visually stunning, creative and intense animated film that the entire family can enjoy. The film is directed by first-time director Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey (Rise of the Guardians), and five-time Emmy nominee Rodney Rothman (Late Show with David Letterman). The screenplay is written by Rothman and Emmy nominee Phil Lord (The Last Man on Earth, The Lego Movie). The film is dedicated to the memory of Spider-Man co-creators, Steve Ditko, who died on July 6 and Stan Lee, who died on November 12. The film has already received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture – Animated. The film, which had a budget of $90 million, features a strong cast of voice actors to bring the many characters in the film to life.
Miles Morales, voiced by Shameik Moore (Dope), is a Brooklyn teenager who unhappily transfers to an elite boarding school. He is the son of hospital worker Rio Morales, voiced by Luna Lauren Velez (Dexter), and police officer Jefferson Davis, voiced by two-time Emmy nominee Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, This is Us), who doesn’t like Spider-Man. Miles is close to his uncle Aaron, voiced by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight). When uncle Aaron takes him to an abandoned subway tunnel to paint his graffiti art, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, changing his life forever.
Crime lord Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, voiced by six-time Golden Globe nominee Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan, RKO 281), has built a particle accelerator to access parallel universes so that he can reconnect with his wife and son who had died in a car accident. Spider-Man, voiced by Emmy nominee Chris Pine (SuperMansion, Star Trek), tries to disable the accelerator, battling the Green Goblin and the Prowler. Spider-Man is wounded when the accelerator malfunctions, but before he is killed by Fisk, he is able to give Miles a key to disable the accelerator. Unfortunately, Miles inadvertently damages the key beyond use.
As Miles is dealing with the changes in his body after the spider bite, he meets an older and overweight Peter B. Parker, voiced by Jake Johnson (Jurassic World).     Peter has been brought into Miles’s world by the accelerator and needs to return home fast or he will die. He agrees to train Miles after they break into Fisk’s research facility to gather information about the accelerator. There, they encounter the dangerous Dock Ock, voiced by Emmy nominee Kathryn Hahn (Transparent).
Soon, Miles and Peter meet other versions of Spider-Man from other dimensions who are brought into Miles world by Kingpin’s machine:  they are Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman, voiced by Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Spider-Noir, voiced by Oscar winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas), Penni Parker, voiced by Kimiko Glenn (Orange is the New Black), and the pig Peter Porker/Spider-Ham, voiced by two-time Emmy winner John Mulaney (John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City, Saturday Night Live).  Mary Jane is voiced by Zoe Kravitz (Big Littles Lies, Fantastic Beasts), and Peter’s Aunt May is voiced by Oscar nominee Lily Tomlin (Nashville). Miles must work with these other versions of Spider-Man to save New York City from the Kingpin.
Content concerns include intense fight scenes that will be too much for very young viewers. Themes in the film include family, especially the relationship between a father and his son, sacrifice, good vs. evil, doing the right thing and working together as a team.
Everything about this film was well-done – storyline, characters, the animation (hand-drawn, digital, still frames and text panel) with vibrant colors, the music by two-time Golden Globe nominee Daniel Pemberton (Gold, Steve Jobs), humor, etc. There are also several visual recreations from previous Spider-Man films that Spider-Man fans will enjoy.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an entertaining and intense animated film that the entire family (age 10 and above) can enjoy together. (Note:  my wife thought the film was manically paced and was a visual and audio overload.)  It’s one of the most creative animated films I’ve seen. And don’t forget to stay for the post-credits scene.

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Movie Review ~ Spotlight

SpotlightSpotlight, rated R

This powerful film is directed by Tom McCarthy and co-written by Josh Singer and McCarthy (who has an Oscar nomination for writing Up), and is about the Spotlight team from the Boston Globe. They are an investigative reporting arm of the Globe who won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Roman Catholic Church’s cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by priests in Boston. The film opens with a brief scene from 1976 where we see a priest being whisked away in a long black car. The film then fast forwards to 2001 when Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who is Jewish, becomes the new editor of the Globe in the predominantly Catholic city. He asks Water “Robby” Robinson” (Michael Keaton, in his follow-up to his Oscar nominated performance in 2014’s Birdman), the editor of the Spotlight team, to look into the archdiocese’s handling of child abuse cases.

Robinson’s excellent Spotlight team consists of Michael Rezendes (two-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo in another Oscar worthy performance), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James). They are fully committed to this story, to the point that they don’t really have any personal lives. But this story is not just about a few priests, or even 87 priests who have abused children, but an entire church organization/system led by Cardinal Law (Len Cariou). That’s why Baron pushes Globe Managing Deputy Editor Ben Bradley Jr. (John Slattery), Robinson and the Spotlight team – to pursue and prove Cardinal Law’s knowledge and cover-up of the abuse.

Along the way we meet a few of the abuse victims and their recollections which are at times graphic and always heartbreaking. We also meet attorneys on both sides of the issue Eric Macleish (Billy Crudup) and Mitchell Garabedian (Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci) who are aware of what has been going on. Jim Sullivan (Jamey Sheridan) and Pete Conley (Paul Guilfoyle) are part of the church machine that strongly encourages Robinson to look the other way. We are told of the significant power the Catholic Church has in Boston including the close relationship the church has with the legal, law enforcement and media, highlighted by an uncomfortable “meet and greet” Cardinal Law has with Baron.

What makes this film significant is the story – the cover-up that the Globe successfully exposed in more than 600 stories. What makes the film great are the strong acting performances, led by Ruffalo. McCarthy’s direction and the excellent script from McCarthy and Singer keeps things moving and I found myself emotionally pulled into the story and injustice that had been allowed to go on. Along the way we see what the abuse and cover-up does to the Catholic faith of Rezendes and Pfeiffer.

The film ends with a list of the cities in the world in which significant abuse has been uncovered, including one 45 minutes from my home.

The film is rated “R” for adult language and the subject matter of sexual abuse of children. It is quite simply one of the best films of 2015.