Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 3/19/19;
Sony Pictures;
Animated;
Box Office $189.87 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language.
Voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine.

One of the Holy Grails of adapting a comic book to film is the idea of evoking the feeling of reading a comic while watching the story play out. Filmmakers have tried different techniques over the years to achieve this, such as brighter colors or hyper-stylized action, to varying effect, with the best results often focusing on just telling the story in a way that brings the spirit of the work into a different medium.

Animation would seem to be closer to the artistic foundations of comic books, but often present challenges of their own.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is probably the closest a movie has come to finding that sweet spot between telling a comic book story while immersing the viewer in the fantastic art that is often unique to the panel-to-panel format.

Its innovative animation style, layering hand-drawn animation over CGI, combined with a thrilling story of self-discovery are just a few of the reasons Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

The film is a deft blending of self-parody with an ambitious attempt by Sony Pictures to explore new aspects of the Spider-Man concept while the live-action version of the character is on loan to Marvel Studios.

In particular, the film is an adaptation of the Miles Morales version of the character, a mixed-race teenager who gains the powers of Spider-Man in an alternate reality in which Peter Parker is killed.

In the film, Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore), stumbles upon a plot by the villainous gangster Kingpin (Live Schreiber) to open a portal into alternate dimensions in search of replacement versions of his recently deceased wife and son. The plan goes awry when versions of Spider-Man from a variety of realities began to appear, and they team up to help Miles learn how to control his new powers and figure out how to return home before Kingpin’s machine damages the multiverse.

The alternate versions of Spider-Man really let the creative team shine with the parody aspects of the film by introducing characters in a variety of styles. There’s a late-30s Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) who has become depressed after years of being a hero has left his personal life in shambles; there’s Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenage girl version of Spidey; there’s Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), a black-and-white private detective from the 1930s; there’s an anime version involving a little girl and her pet robot from the future; and there’s Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), essentially Porky Pig in a Spider-Man costume.

The combination of the various versions offers not only some of the best laughs ever to be had with a superhero movie, but make for a terrific tribute to what has made Spider-Man such an iconic character over the years. There’s also a post-credits sequence that really takes it up a notch in that regard.

It’s enough to thrill longtime fans of the character, particularly the Miles Morales version, while providing enough nods to the aspects of the mythology that most average viewers would already be familiar with so as not to need to be an avid comics reader to follow along.

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The Blu-ray is loaded with a ton of bonus material, including the new animated short “Spider-Ham: Caught in a Ham,” which serves as a prequel to the film in showing us a Spider-Ham adventure that was interrupted when he gets pulled into Miles’ reality.

In addition, there’s an “Alternate Universe Mode” for the movie in which some scenes are replaced with storyboards of earlier concepts, as a way for the filmmakers to ponder how the film could have turned out. It runs about 26 minutes longer than the theatrical cut (which comes in at 117 minutes) and even starts with the Spider-Ham short.

The regular version of the film includes a commentary with the filmmakers, which is a nice guide to how the various creative decisions evolved to get to the final movie, including casting decisions and the re-imagining of certain well-known characters.

Many of the topics are covered in specific featurettes as well.

The eight-minute “We Are Spider-Man” examines the key messages of the film, while the five-minute “Spider-Verse: A New Dimension” deals with the animation style and techniques for adapting the comics.

The 15-minute “The Ultimate Comics Cast” showcases the actors involved in the film and what makes them such a good fit for their characters. The two-part “Designing Cinematic Comics Characters” offers an eight-minute look at the design of the heroes, and five-minutes devoted to the creation of the villains.

“The Spider-Verse Super-Fan Easter Egg Challenge” is a five-minute video that points out some of the references hidden throughout the film, while inviting viewers to look for more.

There’s also the eight-and-a-half-minute “A Tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko,” the co-creators of Spider-Man who both passed away in 2018. Stan Lee recorded one of his famous cameos for the film.

Finally, the disc includes music lyric videos for two songs, “Sunflower” and “Familia.”

There are also some digital-exclusive bonus featurettes. The three-minute “Another, Another Times Square” provides a primer on the concept of alternate realities, the minute-and-a-half “Meanwhile, in a Gassy Universe” is a juvenile montage of various clips from the film with dialogue replaced by fart sounds (no doubt the work of Spider-Ham).

Vudu has a minute-long “An All-Star Cast” promotional video, while Movies Anywhere provides videos for how to draw Miles and Gwen, about three minutes for each character.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

‘Marvel’s The Punisher’ Repeats at No. 1 on Parrot Analytics Digital Originals Chart

Netflix viewership may have taken a hit during the Super Bowl, but the subscription streamer continues to dominate the digital originals chart, locking up seven of the top 10 spots the week ended Feb. 2, according to Parrot Analytics.

“Marvel’s The Punisher” remained in the No. 1 spot, even though the superhero series suffered a 15.8% decline in average daily Demand Expressions from the prior week. Attribute its staying power to the fact that it is the only Marvel series on Netflix that is currently airing new episodes.

“Titans,” from DC Universe, rose to No. 2 from the prior week despite a 5.5% decline in demand.

That’s because last week’s second-place finisher, Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie,” plummeted to No. 8 with a 28.4% drop in demand. The week before its No. 2 debut in the top 10, “Grace and Frankie” – a comedy with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin – had been No. 15. Demand for the series spiked after season 5 launched on Netflix on Jan. 18.

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“Titans” and its companion series, “Young Justice,” had topped the charts the week that ended Jan. 19, but both are now going into hiatus. “Young Justice” remained at No. 5, with a 4.4% drop in average daily Demand Expressions.

Demand Expressions is a proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. The metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Netflix Blows Lid Off Hollywood’s Female Age Ceiling

Hollywood’s age cap on conventional female attractiveness has always been unfairly low when compared to male actors. Netflix appears to be disrupting this industry norm as well.

It just launched a 13-episode reboot of Norman Lear’s long-running 70s-80s sitcom, “One Day at a Time,” co-starring 87-year-old Rita Moreno as an “old-school” Cuban-born mom who hardly looks or acts her age.

The SVOD behemoth earlier this month bowed season four of acclaimed comedy, “Grace and Frankie,” co-starring timeless Jane Fonda (who just turned 80) and 79-year-old Lily Tomlin. Both actors shine with their 77-year-old male counterparts, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston.

But they’re all “teens” compared to Betty White, who at age 96 has inked a deal to reprise her role in a reboot of “The Golden Girls.” The original 80s series co-starred Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty and Rue McClanahan, all of whom have died.

It’s a strong statement in an industry obsessed with youth and millennial indifference toward tradition. A Time magazine study found female actors’ careers peak at age 30 in the number of roles available, compared to age 46 for male actors. The study found that while Sandra Bullock generated more paying roles (14) than George Clooney (2) at age 29 – at age 38, Clooney generated 11 roles compared to six for Bullock.

To watch Moreno guest-star on an episode of “Grace and Frankie” is to watch time stand still. In a career that spans almost 70 years, Moreno held her own among strong personalities Fonda, Tomlin, Marsha Mason (75) and Swoosie Kurtz (73).

Indeed, series creator Marta Kauffmann (“Friends”) has made a point to comedically showcase yesterday’s female (and male) stars coming to grips being seniors in a tech-savvy age — a dilemma no one can escape.

But will Hollywood take note?

Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, says that while Netflix is again pushing the envelope, he believes Fonda, Tomlin, Moreno and White are outliers in an industry still preoccupied by youth.

“The biggest appeal of age is relatability to the target audience, so I presume these actors resonate with a demographic that Netflix is trying to capture,” Pachter said.