Spider-Man: Cataclysm

Spider-Man is a person we all know and love. He appears in every movie we watch, on every T-shirt in we wear, and in the rearview mirror when we’re driving in our car. I had a conversation with Spider-Man over a hot cup of coffee this morning, and he assured to me he will return to us as was outlined in the prophecy. The only question is what form he will take.

In Spider-Man: Cataclysm, we are introduced to an entirely different Spider-Man, a Spider-Man who is far more in tune with the rhythms of the Millenial Age. First introduced in comic books earlier this decade, Miles Morales is the first black Spider-Man, and just the second time a Latino character has taken on the Spider-Man identity.

Miles Morales as Spider-Man is the next generation, is the future, is all of us confused and shambling youth hoping for something better, and driving for Lyft in the meantime. But in Spider-Man: Cataclysm, the role of Miles Morales is played by Elle Fanning wearing a very dark spray-on tan.

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Elle Fanning as Miles Morales, aka Spider-Man.

Some critics have commented that Sony/Marvel got their diversity wires crossed and attempted to “kill two birds with one stone” by casting a woman to play the first black Spider-Man. I think this “hot take” obscures more than illuminates, as “hot takes” are often wont to do.

Because who is Spider-Man anyway? What defines him? Can we even use that ugly term “him” to describe a human bitten by a radioactive spider and thus imbued with the ability to sling webs and crawl about the walls and buildings that make up the urban jungle in which we must live?

Spider-Man is a genderless, raceless, ageless icon. We project our fantasies onto his masked face, and onto the very strange and distracting high-pitched and heavily accented voice Elle Fanning uses in Spider-Man: Cataclysm.

Cataclysm opens with Miles and his father Jefferson (Delroy Lindo) mourning the recent deaths of two close family members. Prior to the events of the movie, Miles’ mother Rio and his uncle Aaron died in a hail of gunfire that led to an accidental explosion during a battle between Spider-Man and Venom.

Miles comes to believe the world is about to end, and his prophecies gain him a cult-like following across storefront churches in the Bronx. His father doesn’t know what to think about his son’s behavior, which alternates between bombastic preaching and silent brooding.

Meanwhile, Galactus, a cosmic entity who eats planets to sustain his life force, emerges from a nearby nebula and prepares to consume Earth. All over the world, astronomers and soothsayers point out the giant in the night sky and gape in wonder.

Fearing the final reckoning is at hand, Miles reveals his double life as Spider-Man to his father. As a result, his father becomes convinced Miles is responsible for the death of Aaron and Rio, and disowns him.

When Galactus descends, Spider-Man mounts a last-ditch effort to save the planet, and must enlist the help of the Avengers to help him. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and even Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must all work together with Spider-Man and his legion of dedicated followers to defeat Galactus once and for all.

Just when they think they have subdued Galactus, the massive planet eater bursts into four great beasts. The first beast is a lion with the wings of an eagle, the second is a bear waving giant bones with its fists, the third is a leopard with four wings and four heads, and the fourth is a massive serpent with ten horns. One of the horns speaks very pompously (voice of Nathan Lane).

Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the cultist Servants of the Spider’s Word eventually trap each of the four beasts. They turn the beasts over to the Guardians of the Galaxy who imprison them in an egg made of the rubble of a thousand starships.

Joseph Kosinski’s direction has a spectacular grandeur, but it’s the human moments between Miles and his father that really make the film worth watching. I laughed, I cried, I prayed for humanity, and so will everyone else who watches this movie. And we praise Elle Fanning for her derring do. She is Spider-Man, just as much as you or I.

TL;DR – Visually striking and thematically rich, Spider-Man: Cataclysm draws its bizarre power from its strong production values and a perplexing performance from Elle Fanning.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“If I have to watch any more Spider-Man reboots, I’m going to puke.” – Darla Blaugrana, Newsweek

“I feel like Elle Fanning wasn’t the best choice to play Miles Morales, who is half black and half Latino.” – Brive Hoxhauer, LA Weekly

“More than most films, Spider-Man: Cataclysm is full of soaring ambition. Just try not to think too hard about any of it.” – Thurman O’Herlihy, Seattle Times

“The most interesting scenes feature Miles Morales preaching a prophecy of doom to poor, underprivileged communities of color.” – Uriah Ward, Christian Science Monitor

“Elle Fanning is back, baby! And she’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“Elle Fanning, infected with a sickly gleam, plays the leader of new religion, and her penchant for manic sermons is so dynamic will that she keeps the film afloat all on her own.” – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club

“It would have behooved Marvel to cast a person of color to play Miles Morales.” – B. Conner Yonk, Toronto Sun

“Let’s hope that I, Spiderman recaptures the magic that made many of the other Spider-Man reboots so joyous to watch.” – Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

“Is this supposed to be funny?” – Tsinoglou Luther, Detroit News

“What are you even doing?” – Gower Halstatt, ReelViews

Melonmeter® Score:

90% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

Big Bad Beetleborgs (2017)

This weekend’s box office is dominated by Power Rangers, Lionsgate Entertainment’s reimagining of the popular children’s television series. But don’t miss out on Big Bad Beetleborgs, 20th Century Fox’s attempt to compete with Lionsgate for that much sought after kid and teen audience.

Unlike Power Rangers, the reboot of Big Bad Beetleborgs makes no attempt to reinvent the franchise’s preexisting mythology. If you know the original Big Bad Beetleborgs TV series, you won’t be very surprised by the plot of the movie.

Set in the fictional town of Charterville, three typical average kids— Draw (Finn Wolfhard), Joss (Millie Bobby Brown), and their tubby friend Roland (Rico Rodriguez) enter the supposedly haunted Hillhurst Mansion on a dare from rich snobs Trip and Barn. While exploring, the kids accidentally bump a pipe organ that releases a phantasm named Flabber (Ben Kingsley). Flabber offers to grant the kids one wish because he is friendly and grateful that they liberated him from the hellish maw beneath the mansion.

Draw, Joss and Roland immediately wish to become the heroes of their favorite Saturday morning TV show. Flabber obliges and turns them into the Big Bad Beetleborgs. The Big Bad Beetleborgs wear bio-armor and wield bio-swords infused with the life force of insects, developed by the Earth Academia’s brightest minds.

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Draw, Joss and Roland become the Big Bad Beetleborgs with the help of Flabber

It’s all fun and games until the Big Bad Beetleborgs discover silly Flabber accidently brought their sworn enemy to life: the evil Vexor (Robert DeNiro). Vexor transforms regular humans into his synthetic beast slave monsters (or “Magnavores”) using the Jamahl Melody, a form of occult magic. To battle the Beetleborgs, Vexor summons a veritable “rogues gallery” of Magnavore monsters:

  • Death Mult (Al Pacino) – A bird-faced monster with a pronounced wheeze.
  • Bagma Virus (Casey Affleck) – A hunchbacked gray-furred rat monster.
  • Heavyznake (Luis Guzman) – A reptilian humanoid with a long snake draped over the head area that serves as his arms
  • Bububu (Brian Dennehy) – A pig monster who can breathe a white gas that steals human voices, reducing them to grunts and squeals. He can breathe fire and blast lasers from his tusks
  • Kamaza (Leslie Jones) – A mantis monster whose mission is to spread her eggs all over the planet, injecting them into people using her long, spiked tongue.
  • Gagamoth (Sylvester Stallone) – At first an energy-sucking caterpillar monster, Gagamoth metamorphoses into a red moth monster when it absorbs the Beet Ingram’s power
  • Rasbelga (Wayne Knight) – a monster similar to a carnivorous plant that can move on its own and feeds on small animals
  • Figer (Kirsten Dunst) – A legendary fire-breathing cat monster that is fossilized and unable to move
  • Macho No. 5 (Jeffrey Tambor) – A horned tree-sloth monster who is extremely lazy much to Vexor’s dismay. Eventually Vexor has Macho No. 5 pose as a bus driver and use his tongue to suck the energy out of people to become active while they become lazy.
  • Hammer Kong (Jon Hamm) – a silver and gold robot with giant hammers on his hands and a head in the shape of a hammer head with the striking surface being his face. He can pound his hands on the ground to create Hammer Crush shock waves, or toss them in his Hammer Boomerang attack while firing a “Kong Beam” from his single eye & spit giant nails to pin his enemies to a wall.

The Big Bad Beetleborgs successfully destroy nearly all of the Magnavores in a series of action-packed adventures. However, Hammer Kong proves to be too powerful for the Beetleborgs to battle on their own. They decide to seek out Roland’s grandmother Nano (Jessica Lange) for help.

Nano works at the TV station responsible for broadcasting the Beetleborgs TV show. She introduces the kids to Art Fortunes (Dustin Hoffman), the creator of the show. They beg him to help them defeat the Magnavores. Though he doesn’t think it will work, Fortunes agrees to use the TV station’s satellite dish to beam a strong signal directly into their friends Pokus and Braden. The signal transforms Pokus and Braden into White Blaster Beetleborg and the Mega Blue Beetleborg

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Dustin Hoffman as television producer Art Fortunes

With the help of White Blaster and Mega Blue, the Beetleborgs finally defeat Hammer Kong, turning both him and Vexor into nothing more than a pile of nuclear ash. Meanwhile, Art Fortunes makes evil plans to take advantage of the newfound power of his satellite dish in a clear set up for a sequel.

Obviously, there’s nothing in Big Bad Beetleborgs that’s particularly new or original if you’ve spent any time watching the original TV series. Though a few names have been changed and certain aspects of the plot have been rearranged, it all felt very familiar to me. But with top of the line special effects and production design, a stellar cast, and inspired direction by David Cronenberg, it’s definitely worth the price of admission.

TL;DR – While not breaking any new ground, David Cronenberg’s first film for children is a highly polished and professional production that is a worthy successor to the original series.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Big Bad Beetleborgs is a smash hit!” – Owen Gleibermann, Entertainment Weekly

“I had never heard of the original TV series, so this was like a brand new normal movie for me, and I loved every minute of it.” Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“David Cronenberg’s lurid imagination is finally at work again in the insectoid and skeletal design of the movie’s many fabulous creatures and machines.” Tirn Moloch, Bloody Disgusting

“Robert DeNiro’s hammy performance as the film’s villain Vexor is yet another embarrassment the once great star will never live down.” – Ward Geith, IGN Movies

“The movie constantly introduces new characters and strange, largely unexplained concepts like the Jamahl Melody. You can try to understand Big Bad Beetleborgs or you can try to enjoy Big Bad Beetleborgs, but you cannot possibly do both.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“An embarrassment for the entire cast, for director David Cronenberg, but mostly for you for spending time and money watching this moronic garbage.” – James Berardelli, ReelViews

“Everyone involved in this movie should be ashamed they accepted payment to fabricate such a nonsensical waste of time.” – Scott Tobias, NPR

“Sit back and let the Big Bad Beetleborgs take you on the ride of your life.” – Murvin Del Toro, Cinegarage

Melonmeter® Score:

72% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™ BUT MAYBE LACKING SOME SEEDS OF ORGINALITY

That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away

That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away is the best superhero movie since Logan. Finally we get to see a movie with both the gritty realism of Logan and the edgy, playful sense of humor of Deadpool. You heard it here first: TGWGATBPA is a fast-paced, absolutely crazy and action-packed thrill ride. I can’t recommend it highly enough to comic books fans and movie fans in general.

OK, I know what you’re thinking. You say it’s a great superhero movie, but what about the story? Trust me, this one’s got a story: Drick Bravisson (John Krasinski) is a mild-mannered computer systems analyst for the CIA until a Russian spy (Joe Pantoliano) throws toxic chemicals all over his face and body. It turns out the Russians mistook Drick Bravisson for a high-level political target, and now they’re gonna have to pay the price.

The chemicals transform Drick Bravisson into a crazy green monster kind of like the Hulk but with more wisecracks and less rage. At first Drick uses his powers to do crazy tricks like flip over cars and ride the skateboard really fast until it jumps over buildings. But then Drick realizes he has to use his powers to make the world a better place and that’s when he becomes That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away.

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John Krasinski as That Guy Who Gets All the Bad Poison Away

In the second act of TGWGATBPA, our hero uses his powers to stop the bad poison from killing innocent people. Bad poison is everywhere, but luckily because of his accident That Guy Who Gets The Bad Poison Away can be everywhere too. The editing and cinematography the filmmakers use to achieve this effect will blow your mind. Plus, Drick Bravisen has still got plenty of motormouth one-liners to add spice while he’s saving lives.

Eventually, That Guy Who Gets The Bad Poison Away realizes where all the bad poison is coming from: the Russians. That’s right, the same Russian military intelligence agents who sprayed Drick Barviton with toxic chemicals in the first place are discovered to be manufacturing all the bad poison that’s killing so many innocent people. I won’t reveal what happens next because no spolies but trust me when I say That Guy Who Gets The Bad Poison Away definitely gets all the bad poison away in the end.

Paramount has already announced plans for Dark Bavisson to return in TGWGATBPA 2 and 3 plus a tie-in series on Netflix. I personally can’t wait to see what happens next in this franchise that’s got more thrills and laughs than anything in the stupid Marvel Avengers movies which are just for dumb kiddies.

TL;DRThat Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away subverts superhero film formula with wildly entertaining — and decidedly non-family-friendly — results.

What the rest of the critics are saving:

“I couldn’t believe how funny this movie was because superhero movies are usually just about the action.” – Mamat Trikabeon, Birth.Movies.Death

“Luckily for all of us in the audience, the chemical attack on Krasinski’s face and body transforms him into a much funnier and more interesting character.” – Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve

That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away boasts some great stylish action, and is probably the funniest movie of the young year.” – Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

“Joaquin Phoenix delivers a feat in his directorial debut (he also plays the villain Vladimir Rodchenko). On the superhero movie rating scale – which we can safely say has certainly had its ups and downs – TGWGATBPA is pretty juicy.” – Tombo Cruz, Collider

“Each time That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away turns into the camera and gives us some oddly phrased commentary on what’s just happened, it sent me into a huge giggle fit.” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“A dispiriting mishmash of elements from Deadpool and slightly rewritten lines from Beckett and Ionesco plays taken out of context and inserted into scenes of gratuitous violence and explosions.” – Nathaneal However, Guernica Magazine

“The sex scenes involving That Guy Who Gets All The Bad Poison Away and a visibly frightened Kristen Stewart made me so uncomfortable my brain just shut off for the rest of the movie.” – Alison Wilmore, BuzzFeed

“The Movie of the Decade!” – Owen Gleibermann, Entertainment Weekly

Melonmeter® Score:

95% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY