Multiple versions of heroes bitten by radioactive spiders converge on the New York City of a Brooklyn teen.
Directed by Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, and Liev Schreiber
Review by Jon Kissel
If you’re a fan of Spider-Man, you’re in the midst of a golden age. Tom Holland is widely praised as the best live-action representation of the character, a stance I agree with based on the fact that he’s a credible high schooler and not a man in in his early 30’s creepily walking down a school hallway. As if Holland’s five appearances in four years wasn’t enough web crawling, Sony produced the animated adventure Into the Spider-Verse, introducing no less than seven new versions of the character in one outing while also creating what many are calling one of the best superhero movies ever. Away from the growing umbrella of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Into the Spider-Verse is allowed to go wherever it wants to, freed from any kind of realism or prior lore. That freedom is coupled with an earnestness that the character has presumably had for its entire life, and while I don’t subscribe to the fawning praise for the film, the film is a refreshing diversion from an increasingly serialized genre.
Modern Westerns like No Country For Old Men meets a rural, low-key version of Heat in David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water. With its Texas setting and its equal time given to the crooks and the cops that are chasing them, Mackenzie's film, written by the increasingly impressive Taylor Sheridan, is buoyed along its fairly familiar path by a top-notch cast and a resonant backdrop of scheming bankers and post-industrial blight. A perfect fit for 2016, the film gives a voice to those who want to punch the powerful in the nose by any self-destructive means necessary.
Hugh Jackman's portrayed Logan, otherwise known as Wolverine, in nine films dating back seventeen years. Over that period, the X-Men films featuring Jackman have been all over the map, spanning from the execrable to the entertaining. However, he's never been at the center of a film like Logan, his final bravura outing in the role. While the X-Men films keep getting bigger, with larger casts and greater destruction, the stand-alone Wolverine films keep getting smaller as the casts constrict and there's a turn toward the internal. That focus bears substantial fruit in Logan, by far the best X-Men film in the extended franchise, and one of the best superhero films in the present era that Wolverine and the X-Men arguably kicked off.
Jeremy Saulnier makes ugly films. Both Blue Ruin and Green Room are gritty and violent exercises that dispatch their characters at random, mid-sentence, with minimal dignity. They provide an anti-cinematic view of brutality, far away from the John Wicks and Ethan Hunts of the world. What keeps Saulnier’s earlier films from being oppressive is how quickly they move. A scene that culminates in a hacked forearm is onto the next thing, keeping tension on the viewer and preventing them from having their noses rubbed in what is some of modern cinema’s most repulsive violence. This is not the case with Hold the Dark, Saulnier’s third film and the first one he hasn’t written, instead relying on an adapted script from frequent collaborator Macon Blair. The tone of Hold the Dark, introspective and bleak and full of whispered portent, runs counter to what has served Saulnier thus far in his burgeoning career. It’s admirable for a director to try something new, but Hold the Dark is a risk that wasn’t worth taking.
S. Craig Zahler continues his efforts to bring exploitation films back from the 70’s with Brawl in Cell Block 99, a sickeningly violent prison flick and follow-up to the equally queasy Bone Tomahawk. I’m not terribly familiar with exploitation cinema, but like pornography, one just knows it when they see it. They feature extreme human behavior, prefer cool and reject beauty or elegance, have stylized dialogue, and fashion antagonists from pure evil. Tarantino does a more refined version of this, having been raised on exploitation films. The Tipper Gore-esque knock on early Tarantino was that he’s overly violent, an inaccurate accusation in at least his first three films. Tarantino pans away from ears getting chopped off, but no one could say the same of Zahler. He stares violence in the face, taking in every compound fracture and bone crunch. The result is a nigh-unrecommendable film, his second in a row. The sick feeling in one’s stomach after the credits isn’t necessarily something I want other people to experience.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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