On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 19, 2019

In the sixteen years since Sam Raimi's Spider-Man first debuted we've had seven different Spider-Man films featuring four different incarnations of the webslinger. And while each of those incarnations have their own unique qualities that make each effort commendable (even the less successful ones-I'm a fan of the Marc Webb Amazing films, even), with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse we get something that would seemingly be the nail in the coffin as far as originality in blockbuster cinema goes. I mean, "Seven Spider-Man films in sixteen years? That's a new Spider-Man every four years and didn't we just get a new Peter Parker last summer? Why do we need another Spider-Man let alone another Spider-Man movie?" These are all valid questions and concerns, but somehow-rather than being the tipping point that sends audiences over the edge into full-on superhero saturation directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman have crafted a superhero film that does the complete opposite and reinvigorates the genre over and over again with its brisk two-hour time frame. What Spider-Verse does to separate itself from the past incarnations of the character is not only introduce a new Spider-Man in the form of Miles Morales (DOPE's Shameik Moore), but to also offer a completely new origin story that also offers a new perspective on what it's like to be a superhero. The movie, which comes from producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie, 21 and 22 Jump Street) with Lord getting a sole screenwriting credit, knows exactly what it is and if you've seen any of Lord and Miller's previous work then you know how aware and how smart they are about recognizing the genre they're operating within, completely lampooning that genre, and then creating an experience of a movie that exists within that genre that is somehow simultaneously one of the best examples of that genre. For instance, if you were to pool this year's list of superhero films (a very strong year to boot) Spider-Verse would still be among the very best of them despite the fact superhero fatigue and references to past missteps in the series are explicit within the film's DNA. By executing the tropes audiences have become accustomed to in such expert fashion and placing this fresh twist on our expectations of the genre, Spider-Verse is able to stake claim in the fact that while viewers have seen plenty of superhero movies before, they've never seen one quite like this. Full review here. A

My wife and I took our four-year-old daughter to see this despite her having seemingly no interest in the trailers or TV spots that have been on heavy rotation-especially over the past week or so. Admittedly, this was partly for the reason both of us wanted to see this fifty-four-year-later sequel to Mary Poppins and didn't want to have to go through the hassle of finding a babysitter the weekend before Christmas, but it was mostly due to the fact that despite the lack of interest in the promotional materials that sometimes you just have to trust your parents know better than you and, lucky for us, our little four-year-old girl decided to indulge us on this particular matter (the slush and popcorn might have factored in, but I digress). The point being, that once director Rob Marshall's (Chicago, Into the Woods) Mary Poppins Returns began and Emily Blunt's incarnation of the practically perfect nanny showed up and began teaching the new generation of Banks children (as well as reminding their parents) that while imagination may not always be approved of, that it's more than necessary to make life fun and largely bearable, the little one was more than hooked by the magic of the titular character. And so, while Mary Poppins Returns is admittedly more of a re-hash or re-imagining of that first, 1964 film than I would have either thought or hoped it to be it is also a reminder of how powerful and delightful the imagination can truly be. Though my personal experience with the film may not be as heartening as those who take their teenagers to the theater and see their faces revert to a state of child-like wonder; to experience the kind of magic and possibilities Mary Poppins brings to the table and exerts with pure enthusiasm strike our daughter in such a clear and distinct way-especially during the numerous musical numbers-was quite something. The Julie Andrews picture was always one of those movies that was on whenever we needed it to be growing up and taking on the burden of crafting a follow-up to that respected classic (the only live-action film Disney saw garner a Best Picture nod in his day) garners a degree of respect built-in for even attempting as much and while Mary Poppins Returns could have certainly done a little more to stand on its own it is so excessively charming, appropriately cute, and full of original songs and creative executions that it's hard to argue the film is anything but perfectly pleasant in every way. Full review here. C+

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