Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Quick hits: If Beale Street Could Talk, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

We're at the point in the year that the movies are coming fast and furious (no not that movie).  We don't have time to do full reviews, and you don't have time to read them.  Many of the films we'll be discussing deserve more time, but you will be able to get the gist of them from our one-paragraph summaries.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) is 19 and pregnant.  She breaks the news to Fonny (Stephan James), a 22-year-old wrongly imprisoned by a racist cop on a rape charge.  Barry Jenkins' (Moonlight) latest is based on James Baldwin's novel about a young couple's struggle against racial injustice in 1970s Harlem.  The performances ranged from good to excellent, with Regina King as Tish's mother the standout.  We liked the non-linear structure, flashing back to Tish and Fonny as childhood friends, and the evolution of their relationsip against the backdrop of prejudice and suspicion.  The jazz and soul soundtrack complemented the lush period photography.  The most sparkling moments were when the families were onscreen, which leads us to the flip side: as interesting as the families were, they only had a couple scenes--most of the story was the young couple, and a lot of their screen time was them staring at each other with mooneyes.  This resulted in glacial pacing (Captain HE said the story could've been told in an hour);  The shift in tone, at times, was jarring--one moment, the couple is walking along in what looks like a scene out of La La Land; the next scene, they are talking about how horrible the ghetto is. In sum, we recommend Beale Street, but not with the enthusiasm an 87 score on Metacritic would indicate we should.
7.5 out of 10

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

At the entrance to this movie is a sign warning off epileptics before they enter.  We were leery enough about taking the family to what seems like the zillionth Spider-Man entry since 2000, and now we see them marginalizing a niche minority.  As the Czarina pointed out, it is the flashing lights in this most animated of animated action-comedies that might trigger seizures.  In this entry, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a gifted Brooklyn teen, is sent by his cop-dad (Brian Tyree Henry) to an academic prep school when he really wants to be a graffiti artist like his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali).  Of course, that radioactive spider bite derails all plans; newly "Spidey"-sensed, Miles is drawn into the battle against the villain Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) who wants to shred the time-space continuum, revealing other planes of existence, each of which has its own version of Spiderman: Earth's Peter Parker (Chris Pine) of course, Bizarro-World-type Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), gritty Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage); there's even a porcine Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mullaney) and a very cool resurrected and superpowered Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld).  It's fun and funny, but with heart and empathy coursing throughout.  And everything is splashed across a backdrop of terrific sounds and an even brighter canvas that looks like actual comic book pages--the singular comics page-print and font design, written "Biffs" and "Pows" inside explosive bursts, the weird angles, the coloration technique, and occasional panes.  It sold us completely.
9.0 out of 10


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