Movie Review: ‘Roma’ ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ are two of the years best movies



Alfonso Cuarón is one of the most talented filmmakers working today. His 2006 film Children of Men explores the chaos of the not so distant future and the glimmering hope that will shine through the chaos. Back in 2004, Cuarón took the Harry Potter movies in a darker and more serious direction and created the best one, The Prisoner of Azkaban. His newest film, Roma, is his most personal, and it might be his best.

Roma tells the story of Cleo, a housemaid for an unstable and chaotic middle-class family in a socially uneasy Mexico City. There are student riots, rough divorces, and bickering siblings. Despite all the social unrest, The film focuses on Cleo’s day to day; her routine, cooking, cleaning, nights out with friends, and an especially humorous workout regiment. Roma is one of the most authentic movies of the year, as much of it is pulled directly from Cuarón’s memories of his nanny and growing up. This authenticity is elevated by the performances. Cleo is played by Mexican native and first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio, and she completely sinks into this role. Casting a first-time actor was incredibly smart because I feel casting a famous actress would only hinder the film, and take away from the gripping narrative that immerses audiences into 1970s Mexico.

Cuarón shoots Roma in beautiful black and white with gorgeous one take tracking shots that go on for minutes on end. I was awe of Cuarón’s camera movements. He captures everyday life on such a large scale and with such gravitas that Roma puts million dollar blockbusters to shame. The film left me saying “that must have been so difficult to shoot”. But Cuarón and company manage to do it. The sound design in Roma is superb as well, along with the visuals immersed me into this story.

Roma is a Netflix movie but I was able to see it in a theater. One scene saw Cleo sitting on a busy curb in the city, surrounded by loud street vendors and performers. The surround sound in the theater came into full effect as every speaker played a different person’s yells. I felt like I was on the curb as all the vendors yelled around me. When a character wasn’t on screen, their dialogue could only be heard from the speakers in the way back of the theater. This kind of immersion cannot be replicated at home, and only proves that Roma is a technical masterpiece.

While Roma is a technical masterpiece, it is also simultaneously heartbreaking and touching. Multiple moments are wrecked me emotionally, but the film also manages to warm your heart and tell a beautiful story of motherhood and family. One particular scene on a beach was so powerful and left me an emotional mess, and I have a feeling that on rewatch it will become even more powerful.

Roma is a masterpiece. Plain and simple. See it in a theater if you can to fully immerse yourself in this beautiful story. But if you can’t, definitely watch it when it comes on Netflix December 14th.


Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

2018 is almost the year of Spider-Man if you think about it. Back in April, we had Tom Holland’s rendition in Avengers Infinity War, and months later Insomniac’s open-world Spider-Man game came out and received unanimous acclaim from critics and fans. And now in December, we have Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the best superhero movie of the year.

Spider-Verse doesn’t tell the story of Peter Parker, instead focusing on Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). In the beginning, Miles is a smart kid who hates his new prep school and wants to go back to his old school. He likes making graffiti art and hanging out with his Uncle Aaron, two things that irk Miles’ police officer father, Jefferson Davis. One night, Miles is out with his Uncle and he gets bit a certain radioactive spider and gets the powers of Spider-Man. Confused and dumbfounded by his newfound powers, Miles blames everything on puberty and attempts to figure out what’s happening to him, when he discovers the villainous Kingpin is opening portals to different dimensions. These portals cause many different Spider-Men and Women to enter Miles’ universe.

An overweight, burnt out, cynical Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) enters Miles’ universe and acts as a mentor figure to Miles. Their dynamic and banter is terrific. Moore and Johnson do a great job bringing these characters to life and bringing emotion when necessary.  The always great Phil Lord and Christopher Miller pen a script that is full of great humor, heart, and references to past Spider-Man movies and media.

Spider-Gwen, who’s voiced by the delightful Haliee Stienfield, also enters Miles’ universe. She’s strong, smart, and has a great dynamic with the other Spider-People. My personal heroes, John Mulaney and Nicolas Cage voice Spider-Ham and Spider-Man Noir respectively. Mulaney delivers zingers with style and brings comedic dynamite to an already great character. I mean his name is Peter Porker. Cage perfectly embodies the rugged and grizzled Private Investigator Peter Parker from the 1930s. Kimiko Glenn plays the charming and lovely, Peni Parker. Glenn does a great job with the voice, and Peni’s robot spider is one of the coolest things in a movie full of cool things.

Spider-Verse has jaw-dropping animation. The textures of the animation, the sound effects that are written across the screen as they occur, the text boxes that visualize the character’s inner monologues, all of these elements make it feel like the animators ripped up some Spider-Man comics and gracefully plastered them to the screen. Each character has their own unique look, style, and movements. The character’s fluidity helps create some extremely frenetic and memorable action. It’s difficult for me to describe how much I love the animation in this movie. Go watch it on the big screen and see for yourself.

In a year full of Spider-Man media, and superhero movies in general, Spider-Verse somehow manages to be fast-paced, funny, fresh, and unique. Its distinct visual style set it apart from every other animated movie this year, and frankly, it blows every other animated movie out of the water (Isle of Dogs is a close second). Spider-Verse preaches that anyone can be Spider-Man. Not everyone can skydive from New York skyscrapers, stick to walls, and spin webs, but everyone can do the right thing. Growing up, Spider-Man was always my favorite superhero. He probably still is, and seeing 3 different, but equally great interpretations of the character is absolutely crazy to me.