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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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My Review of GREEN BOOK

Green Book, rated R

Green Book is inspired by a true story. It is a well-written, directed and acted film, one of the best films I’ve seen this year, but has some content concerns to be aware of.  The film is directed and co-written by Peter Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber).  Farrelly wrote the film with Nick Vallelonga, son of Tony Lip, one of the lead characters in the film, and Brian Hayes Currie. The film had a production budget of $23 million.    
The movie takes place over a two-month period in 1962. Tony Lip, played by two-time Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic, Eastern Promises, The Lord of the Rings films), is a racist Italian-American bouncer from the Bronx, employed at the Copacabana nightclub in New York City. In 1962, he accepts a job driving and protecting the renowned and arrogant African-American jazz pianist Don “Doc” Shirley, played by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), on a music tour through the Midwest and deep South. The tour had been booked by Columbia Artists, Shirley’s management company and he would be playing at whites-only theaters and parlor rooms. His safety was a legitimate concern as only six years prior in 1956 Nat King Cole had been assaulted on stage while performing for an all-white audience in Birmingham, Alabama. Lip actually traveled with Shirley for a year and a half, which the film condenses into two months. Lips’ son, screenwriter Nick Vallelonga has said that shortening the trip for the film was the only major creative license that the filmmakers took. Continue reading

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My Review of Hidden Figures

hidden-figuresHidden Figures, rated PG

Hidden Figures is a true, inspirational film that you will love.  It is directed by Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent), and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.  It tells the story of some key – and hidden – figures in NASA’s efforts to win the space race against the Russians in the early 1960’s. The film features three African-American women, known as “colored computers”, who work for NASA in the Computers Division at the Langley Research Center. The setting is the Mercury Project, the launch of astronaut John Glenn (portrayed by Glenn Powell), into orbit, and his safe return.

Oscar winner (The Help) Octavia Spencer has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Dorothy Vaughan. Dorothy does the work of a group supervisor but is held back from receiving the title, pay and recognition of that position. She experiences racism from her supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst, Spider-Man films), who doesn’t believe an African-American woman should be a supervisor.  Janelle Monae (Moonlight) portrays Mary Jackson, an aerospace engineer who has to take her case to court to be allowed to take classes to pursue an advanced degree. She is striving to overcome all of the obstacles on her way to becoming the first female African-American Engineer at NASA. Oscar nominee (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) Taraji P. Henson portrays Katherine Johnson, an incredible mathematician. She is the only African-American woman working in the Space Task Group. We see her have to fight to have her ideas heard. She has to run across the NASA campus to use the colored ladies restroom and she can’t drink out of the same coffee pot that others in the Space Task Group do. Her performance may be Oscar worthy.

Two-time Oscar winner (Dances with Wolves) Kevin Costner delivers a solid performance as Al Harrison, the head of the Space Task Group.  Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) portrays Jim Johnson, who romantically pursues Katherine, and Golden Globe winner (The Big Bang Theory) Jim Parsons portrays Katherine’s supervisor Paul Stafford, who puts one obstacle after another in Katherine’s ability to do her job.

I really enjoyed the music in the film. The film has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture from Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams and Benjamin Wallfisch. Williams also served as one of the producers of the film.

There are many instances of faith being displayed in the film (a scene in church, prayer at the dinner table, etc.).  The romance between Jim Johnson and Katherine is lovely, and should be an example to the younger generation, along with the work ethic portrayed and the emphasis on education.  The film shows the racism and the pursuit of civil rights in the country in the early 1960’s. The film also includes some real-life footage of space launches, a speech from President Kennedy, etc.

The film tells the inspirational story of these three brilliant and driven African-American women who battled race and gender biases. It features excellent acting performances and is a refreshing PG-rated film that all can enjoy without worrying about content issues.

Highly recommended!