Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
White Boy Rick
Cert: PG; Now showing
The plan was this: Avengers: Infinity War was to hold sway over 2018, with every other caped crusade or super-powered escapade doomed to be swept aside by the $2bn-grossing awesomeness of that behemoth.
No one told Sony, however. Just as the year draws to a close, it slips in an animated offering made for a fraction of the budget that is the most entertaining, dynamic and innovative superhero release in yonks.
We meet young Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), an Afro-latino teen and science whiz living in Brooklyn who is bitten by your typical radioactive spider. His world is naturally turned upside down by the new powers, and following a chance encounter, he is taken under the wing of the real Spider-man (whose mojo has deserted him).
Looming in the underworld is hulking crime boss Kingpin, whose tamperings with a portal zaps in a small and intriguing variety of SpiderMan equivalents from other dimensions. Miles needs to get up to speed quick on the SpiderMan game if he is to help them defeat Kingpin and get home.
Neither a spin-off nor a shameless jumping-off-point to some franchise assault, this is that rarest of things — a replete, self-contained Marvel film that dazzles with wit, ingenuity and heart. An all-star voice cast includes Lily Tomlin, Mahershala Ali and Nicolas Cage. Visually, this is a major spectacle of 2018 that brings us to new territory.
Cert: 15A; Now showing
The difficulty with any stunning debut is how to follow it up. Yann Demange’s debut, ’ 71, was widely acclaimed and deservedly so. Four years later his second feature, White Boy Rick, is perhaps suffering in comparison, but I believe it is also paying the price for its subject matter.
Logan and Noah Miller have written the film based on the true story of Rick Wershe Jr who was 15 when he was recruited by the FBI as an informant. It was Detroit in 1985 and the height of a crack cocaine epidemic against which Nancy Reagan was spearheading a moral crusade. Rick (Richie Merritt) lives with his gun-dealer father (Matthew Mcconaughey) and, until she runs off, his drugaddicted sister Dawn (Bel Powley). His nickname comes from being one of the few white kids in the gang led by Johnny Curry (Jonathan Majors). FBI agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane) recruit Rick by threatening to jail his father. They later set him up as a dealer and although he gets out, going straight doesn’t offer many lucrative options for blue-collar workers in depressed Detroit.
It is a bit long and the pacing is off in places but the characters are realistic and the performances really good. Criticism of the film’s apparently ambiguous morality about drugs to me misses the point because the film instead looks at how drugs-are-bad moralising conveniently bypassed all other moral issues like class, race and recruiting children whose childhood decisions would affect the rest of their lives.
Sorry To Bother You
Cert: 16; Now showing
A Faustian tale for the times we live in, with all the prisms of modern racial dynamics (in the US, it must be stressed) at the forefront. This is the pitch behind this dark satirical debut from rapper-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley, who brings some of his experiences of working in telemarketing during his music/ political activism years.
Lakeith Stanfield ( Get Out) stars as Cassius, who fashions his own CV to get a crumby job in telesales.
There, he’s advised to adopt a “white voice” to snag potential customers. Once he masters this, Cassius eventually becomes a “powercaller”, and is moved upstairs to a lavish department populated by beautiful, successful types. His performance artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) fears all this is coming at a cost, an irrefutable fact when faced with Armie Hammer’s Mephistophelean CEO.
Visually and tonally, Sorry To Bother You is a one-off, and hopefully heralds the arrival of an unorthodox new talent. The relentless fizz of absurdism might be too much for some palates, however.