4 1/2 Stars

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

Like many a nerd, I have spent the last few weeks glued to my Nintendo Switch playing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (which I admit to playing as I do this review)

What makes it a truly effective sequel to the brilliant Breath of the Wild is not just the story (which has elements of Infinity War, time travel, and even Spirited Away) is that it expands upon its already vast world into new heights. The same can be said about Spider-Man: Across the Spider Verse, the sequel to the animated masterclass Into the Spider Verse.

Not long after the events of the first film, young Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is seen doing what we Spidey fans know every Spider-(wo)man has to deal with in the early days of their career: trying to balance fighting crime with having a somewhat every day life. Sadly for Miles, his real friends were not entirely of his own universe and left him in the first film. That changes when he gets a revisit by Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfeld), who we get to see more depth too as a character in this film. What she is doing in his universe I will not dive into: This is a film that I refuse to spoil further.

I even wish to refrain from mentioning the characters but I will tread lightly. The vocal cast is rather remarkable, including the likes of Brian Tyree Henry, Jason Schwartzman, Karan Soni, Issa Rae, and an almost unrecognizable Daniel Kaluuya. The biggest stand out is Oscar Issac as Spider Man 2099 (who was featured in the now legendary post credit scene in the first film). 

I am struggling to come up with the right words to describe the animation of this film (for any word I use will be understating the effect of the film), but I will have to settle on simply stellar. As you may have gathered from the title (as well as the trailer), this film settles in more than one universe, each of which has their own animation style. You can see why this film (as well as the upcoming third film) were pushed back, and it was all for the better.

Even with the plethora of universes and their unique art styles, the core of every good Spider-Man flick is how relatable the protagonist is (especially to teenagers). Deep down, we all want to do what is right with the limited amount of time we have in our schedules (this was perfectly exemplified in 2004’s Spider-Man 2). We are always, in our own ways, thrown in situations where choices may seem like life or death. And, of course, we all just want to be told it is all okay at the end of the day.

Parents, the film has been compared to the likes of The Empire Strikes Back, but not just because of quality. It is indeed a darker film, mainly due to its themes. It has some casual swearing for a PG movie, but nothing too drastic. If you kids saw the first one, they are fine here.

At two hours and sixteen minutes, the film’s length is indeed the only minor qualm, even if it barely drags at any moment, even the intentionally slower, tender moments. I for one could not think of what part to cut if I were editing this. 

Even at this length, I should note I did not get up once during the film to use the restroom.

And I consumed many liquids before and during the film.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
3 1/2 Stars

The Little Mermaid (2023)

Not long into The Little Mermaid, I wondered if I should now be disqualified from reviewing any more of the live action remakes.

As a nineties kid, I am not alone in saying how much Disney meant to me, especially when I think back to the VHS collection I had (no one had a better VHS case like Disney: those things felt bulletproof). Now we are in the remake stage.

4 1/2 Stars

Blackberry (2023)

It seemed I was always behind when it came to cellphones.

It wasn’t until the spring of my senior year of high school when my parents finally relented and got me one (after they realized I had to borrow my friends’ to call for a ride), albeit a hand me down.

4 Stars Movies

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (2023)

“Once more with feeling.”

I can’t remember the last time an MCU film truly lived up to the tagline on its poster. 

4 1/2 Stars Movies

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2023)

“If the American Empire is calling us terrorists then we are doing something right.”

This quote from Michael (Forrest Goodluck) is one of the hidden elements of How to Blow a Pipeline that make it more than just a hard core conservative’s nightmare of a film (the title alone would make one queasy). 

1 1/2 Stars Movies

Nefarious (2023)

(This review is a love letter to The 5th Dimension and their take on a great song from the musical “Hair”)

3 Stars Movies

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

A week ago, I talked about the Dungeons & Dragons movie, which was entertaining for something I knew very little to nothing about. Now, the other side of the coin, comes The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which I have known too much about since my brother and I got our first Super Nintendo when I was five years old.

Maybe that is a bit unfair. Indeed, there have been fans of DnD since before my time. Yet even those die hard fans have got to be fans of arguably the most popular mascot in video gaming. I have not played all of the games, but you don’t need to see his growth as a cultural icon. From the simplicity of sidescrolling and jumping to race karts and nearly every imaginable sport to galaxies and odysseys, Mario knows no bounds.

According to the critical consensus of Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rather thin plot. While this is not entirely wrong, perhaps it is best remembered that this movie is for those averaged around the age of seven (such as my nephews that went with me to see the film). Though in my years of being affiliated with Mario, I never thought of him as having a big family (although him being an Italian should have been a giveaway.) 

Of course, there is no real surprise to see the film start off with Mario (Chris Pratt) and his brother Luigi (Charlie Day) starting out on their own as a new plumbing company. It isn’t long before they take the wrong pipe to another world, where the evil Bowser (Jack Black) is dead set on domination of all he sees, especially the Mushroom Kingdom and it’s ruler, Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy).

That is it as far as the story goes, which is just about the right amount of band width kids such as my aforementioned nephews (who loved the film) can take for a plot. Some may think of that lack of plot as a weakness, but it as far as keeping kids intrigued, it is a strength.

Surprisingly, the film also has some hidden strengths in it’s voice casting. Like many, I was more than hesitant at the idea of Chris Pratt voicing Mario, but it actually got to the point where I did not notice it at all. I have always been vocal in my fandom of Anya Taylor-Joy as a performer, and I won’t be saying anything different here. If anything, I was a bit more surprised her Princess Peach had more of a role than Luigi does.  There are others such as Keegan-Michael Key ramping it up as Toad, a really unrecognizable Fred Armisen as King Kranky Kong, and Seth Rogen’s Donkey Kong sounding like…Seth Rogen (which is not a negative in the slightest). Sadly, perhaps my favorite character was not in the film, but does show up in the post credit scene, so there is hope for the sequel.

In the end, there is one clear winner as the scene stealer, and it is Jack Black’s Bowser. Aside from adding more bass to his voice, there is the classic (albeit family version) of Black all over the Bowser scenes. It is one thing for Bowser to be a truly helpless “hopeless romantic”: it is another to have him playing the piano with the help of Black returning back to his days in Tenacious D. He is truly the best part of the film.

Parents, the film is PG. Your kids will be fine seeing this movie.

Those who are still skeptical should know something rather obvious: While this is no clear masterpiece, it is still much much MUCH better than the infamous catastrophe that was the 1993 version with the late Bob Hoskins. That movie was the start of a long run of movies based off of video games that were so bad it seemed like even a decent one would be a rarity. Over the last few years, that trend seems to have reversed somewhat, with the likes of the Sonic the Hedgehog films, the fedora wearing in Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, the reboot of Mortal Kombat, and (especially) the TV show The Last of Us.

It seems movies based on video games have finally had the dust blown out of the cartridge for good.

Let’s a- go!


Rating: 3 out of 5.
4 1/2 Stars

Air (2023)

From the ages of 9-13, my closet was flooded with shoes. 

I can’t recall why I had so many shoes as a kid (being a small kid mean having a small shoe size, so I assume they were cheap), but I am sure I had some form of Air Jordans (most likely a hand me down): I do distinctly remember the dunking MJ silhouette. Did I think they would make me a better basketball player? Perhaps (I was never good at the sport), but there was no denying the fact that it would increase my cool factor in the class room (especially since I grew up in the Chicago suburbs.)


Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

There is no tiptoeing around the fact that I never played a single game of DnD in my life. The popularity of it seemed to have peaked just before I was born in the eighties, and I never got around to it.

 The closest I remember getting was playing a DnD type game with friends (“this is your character”, roll the dice to see what happens, etc), but all I remember of that was my character name was Squiggy.

3 Stars

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

It was only a month or two ago that I finally forced myself into watching the John Wick films. A little late to the party, I know, but such is life.

In that time, I was glad to see what a lot of people were (re)discovering: that Keanu Reeves is one of the down right coolest dudes to grace cinema in many a decade. The first flick took it’s rather simple premise (retired hitman goes on rampage after losing the one thing that was left of a normal life, his dog) and elevated it in the second film, which I feel is the strongest of the four. The third one, though filled with interesting set pieces and action (including Casablanca of all places), started to dive a little too much into the ridiculous by the end. I know it is a movie, but when someone is shot twice off of a building and survives…well, now it is getting a little too silly.