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Animated ‘Spider-Man’ Leads Weekend Releases

More holiday treats to unwrap at the cinema

Cinema Junkie Checks Out Some Holiday Releases

Holiday gifts come early at the movie theaters. Unwrap a few of the treats you can find this weekend at cinemas.

'Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse'

Swinging into theaters this week is the Sony animated film, "Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse." Not part of the official Marvel Universe produced through Disney, this film follows young Miles Morales who becomes the Spider-Man of his reality and then he crosses paths with his counterparts from other dimensions. Needless to say they all have to join forces to stop Kingpin's plan that threatens to destroy everyone's universe.

The film is directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman with a script by Phil Lord, and produced by Lord and Christopher Miller (the guys who went from success on "The Lego Movie" to being let go from the Solo "Star Wars" film).

Photo credit: SONY

"Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse" goes outside the Marvel Universe for some animated fun.

The animation style is fresh and innovative but the real surprise is that the script is exceedingly well-crafted. It captures the spirit of the Marvel comic, dishes up clever fun, and even develops genuine emotion. How can you not fall in love with a film that gives us Nicolas Cage as Noir Spider-Man, a black and white character who enters Miles' colorful world only to be baffled by a Rubik's Cube (which he only sees in shades of grays). It's little moments like that that charm and delight you. Plus you find yourself really caring for these characters

"Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse" just became my favorite Marvel superhero film so treat yourself to an early holiday gift and go see this.

Photo credit: Focus Features

Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I and Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart square off in "Mary, Queen of Scots."

'Mary Queen of Scots'

"Mary Queen of Scots" tries to spin a feminist tale out of the 16th century political rivalry between Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I.

Saoirse Ronan delivers an impassioned performance as the doomed queen but the film puts her up on a pedestal and shortchanges Margot Robbie’s Elizabeth in the process. The film suggests Mary and Elizabeth could have been friends if it were not for the meddling men who couldn’t stand seeing women in power. But to make its point it praises Mary for her femininity, for marrying, for having a baby, and for looking beautiful, and then belittles Elizabeth for choosing to remain single and for assuming more masculine traits in order to rule effectively.

The film never considers that having her mother executed by her father might have led Elizabeth to the conclusion that staying single was the most effective way to prevent a man from ever reigning over her. Mary is a fascinating and strong character on her own and there is no reason to try and weaken Elizabeth just to make Mary look better. Elizabeth reigned for more than four decades -- no small feat -- and brought much needed stability to the region. But the film wants to end by ignoring that and giving a victory to Mary for mothering the child who would go on to assume the throne after Elizabeth.

The performances rule here and the film is gorgeous to look at but "Mary Queen of Scots" ultimately disappoints, especially in comparison to "The Favourite," which delivers a much more audacious tale of court intrigue and woman jockeying for power.

'The Quake'

Hopping over the North Sea from England to Norway, we find Mother Nature exercising her power in "The Quake." Norway discovered the box office appeal of the disaster film in 2015 with "The Wave" about a tsunami hitting the fiords and the geologist who tried to alert everyone to the dangers.

Now that same geologist identifies a new threat. That’s right "The Wave" was only the beginning (that's the tag line on the poster) and now a massive earthquake is poised to hit Norway.

"The Quake" doesn’t work as well as "The Wave" but it has some impressive effects to entertain us.

Photo credit: Orion

Sing and dance your way through the zombie outbreak with "Anna and the Apocalypse."

'Anna and the Apocalypse'

I’ll wrap up with a film that was not screened for critics but that I am dying to see: "Anna and the Apocalypse." It is a musical zombie teen flick and I can’t imagine anything better for the holidays. Imagine "Shaun of the Dead" meets "Glee" and you’ll be singing and dancing your way through the zombie apocalypse. I can’t wait.

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