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Top Gun: Maverick

Danger Zone? Take My Breath Away? Great Balls of Fire and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling? (Technically)

The original Top Gun had a pretty stacked soundtrack, especially when it had at least two very famous songs that were made for the movie. The latter two already existed, but damn it, we had pilots singing them, so they were memorable too.

I personally hadn’t seen the original Top Gun until a couple of weeks ago. And yet, I knew everything about what happened in the movie. I knew how it would end, I knew who would die (spoilers?), I knew how the volleyball would game. Top Gun has been completely culturally osmosised, which I am going to count as a word here. But really I wanted to finally watch it to make jokes like they do in Flight of the Conchords, how everything is like Top Gun.

Like a lot of people, I went in expecting the sequel film, Top Gun: Maverick, to be utter shit. Sequels several decades later, based on a movie that had a very weak plot, aren’t usually allowed to be good, let alone better. But I guess everyone agrees, Maverick is a better film than the original.

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Never get into a four way with jets. Unlike, I guess, you are a jet too?

Remember how Top Gun ended? Maverick (Tom Cruise) said he wanted to stay at Top Gun and teach pilots? Well, apparently that didn’t last long, because he became a test pilot instead, so he can fly experimental new aircraft. He has a need for speed. And for putting his life on the line. But its modern day, and he has to get on with the fact that most of the planes are going to be drones now, and they are wasting money on new pilot planes. Apparently Iceman (Val Kilmer) being one of the main admirals is the only reason he is still on the payroll.

But now he has to go to one final outpost. He has to go back to Top Gun, because he needs to train former Top Gun graduates, most of which are firsts in their class. The best of the best. Even though he crashed and burned as a teacher, he is the only one who they have available left to teach them, as the only one who has similar experience flying under these conditions. It is a complicated plan, to take out a nuclear bomb facility before it is turned online. It involves going fast and low, twists and turns, avoiding anti-aircraft missiles, and some tight up and down maneuvers at the end. Also they have to have two different direct hits on the target, with basically only two shots overall to get both hits. Great.

Maverick, reluctantly agrees, because he also doesn’t want to quit flying, not yet. And he can still have fun with this. But things will sour and overcomplicate when he finds out one of the pilots in the program is Rooster (Miles Teller), son of Goose, whom Maverick still feels responsible for his death even though he was cleared of wrong doing. And for sure, Rooster hates Maverick, and thinks he is going to not go on the mission, even if he has earned it, if Maverick pulls him for guilt.

Lives are on the line, guilt is in full force, and a 60 year old man is going to have to prove he can make some hard decisions this time.

Also starring Ed Harris, Glen Powell, Greg Tarzan Davis, Jay Ellis, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Lewis Pullman, and Monica Barbaro.

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Still legally obligated to post a mustache picture if they show up.

Is Top Gun: Maverick better than Top Gun? Yes. But you have to understand, and this will be hard for a lot of people. Top Gun is not a great movie. It can be memorable, and exciting for the time, but it technically wasn’t even a great movie in the 1980’s even if it made a lot of money. It was a propaganda tool, with a cool soundtrack, and a really, really, dumb plot.

So Top Gun: Maverick should be easily a better film. Does it rely on nostalgia? Yes, it starts off with Danger Zone again. I was worried all the main hits would be replayed, but they only did half of them. One of its issues was taking its time dealing with the fact that the first film ended with him going into teaching, and the sequel clearly not wanting that to be the case, so that he could come back decades later. They had to have him fail and run away, and some other suspicious backstory they crammed in with new actors/actresses over the run time of this film.

I will say, him becoming a test pilot definitely feels a lot more true to his character, so I will give the sequel that. Having to deal with the complicated decision of sending his former best friend’s son to his potential death, or refusing to let him go even if he earned it, was a great decision to grapple with. It did carry a lot more weight than I was expecting for this sequel film.

And yet, some of the decisions in the sequel feel hollow. After all, having a whole film where he is told he needs to know when to let go and to move on, when to let someone else to take the controls and fly, and his character struggling with that acceptance the whole film? Again, makes sense. Buuut, if they throw it all away for One Last Mission™ then did it really matter? It reminded me of the last Bad Boys movie, making something actually interesting with Martin Lawrence being a pacifist, just to get rid of it when convenient and make a generic action film.

Again, Top Gun: Maverick is better than its predecessor. The fight scenes are actually watchable, the maneuvers are exciting, and it is overall more entertaining. That does not make it a top tier film, just an okay entertainment flick.

2 out of 4.

Men

Alex Garland has been around for awhile in the movie business, but at this point with Men, he has only directed three films. The first two are Ex Machina and Annihilation. But he was a writer before that, writing all of his own movies, but also classics like 28 Days Later… and Never Let Me Go (which was based on a book already).

And yeah, people love him. I was a decent fan of his first movie, and Annihilation didn’t win me over as much as others, but it was definitely creepy. With Men, this will be my first time seeing one of his movies in actual theaters, before I can already hear the hype (or anti-hype as it may be) from others. A fresh new experience! I love it.

As someone who identifies as a man, I am excited that this writer/director has decided to make a movie honoring and praising the life of people like me. Finally. It has been so long since we had any film cater to men, am I right fellas?

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Is this the titular Man? No, there has to be more of them.

Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley) just needs to get away. She used to live in the city, and used to be married. But things sure did go south with her husband, James (Paapa Essiedu), and she needed a huge change of scenery.

So she rented a fancy, fancy, old school cottage in the middle of nowhere. I am not sure if it is an Air BNB type deal, or just some British thing, but she has this wonderfully large house with a lot of land, so she can unwind and chill.

The owner Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear) lives a little bit away, and he can head over if there is any issues, but he expects it to be quiet and lovely time for her. And it is! She goes on a walk, frolics through the fields, and even finds a cool tunnel that has some sweet echo capabilities. And while she is having a grand old British time, a figure appears at the very end of the tunnel. And it starts to come after her.

Now, some people might think a naked grime covered man in your yard is a good time, some may not. Harper was definitely not okay with this, and it was just the start of her very bad experience in the country.

Also starring Gayle Rankin as friend on the phone!

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Who decided to make walks in the woods a scary deal? Assholes, probably. 

If there is something Alex has been able to for sure do in his recent films, it is to make a wooded area pretty darn unsettling. It isn’t even a giant part of the film, because hey, the church, the village, the people, they are all unsettling as well in different ways. Just an unsettling small village with a lot of maybe evil in store for our poor heroine.

Buckley is a strong lead here. The entire movie’s weight and emotional turns are on her shoulders, and a lot of that is while she is alone and dealing with the unknown. I do love Kinnear as well, and I love him a lot more after the fact because I realized how dense I was. Kinnear actually plays every man in the village who is important to the plot. All of them. I didn’t realize that the whole movie, it is technically probably obvious in it, but I am a dense motherfucker. I just honestly didn’t realize it, so his performance is even more impressive, and it totally works for the themes of the movie.

Men deals with abuse — abuse that is often performed by men against women. Both physically and mentally/emotionally. At some points it is subtle, and sometimes it is right there on the nose. Once again, it really fits strongly with the themes of the movie.

The ending is a different matter. It goes balls to the wall, wild stuff there. Horror tropes and just weird shit. It was glorious and ugly (or even Filthy Gorgeous). It is a very creative film, and one that tells me I shouldn’t go out and rent a country side mansion by myself for a few weeks if I am a woman in Great Britain. Yep.

3 out of 4.
T

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the 49th film in the MCU. I mean, maybe, it is hard to say at this point. I ain’t keeping track anymore, and I don’t know how many Sony or Fox films get to count either.

I do know this is another one of those films with some spicy drama behind the stage. You may have forgot this by now, but Scott Derrickson, famous relatively new director of horror film classics like Sinister, was signed on to direct this movie. A horror guy! To do a marvel film! People got real excited over that concept. Is this gonna be scary as fuck?

No, because Derrickson left. And one of the writers. Over creative differences. Damn, he must wanted it more scary and Marvel said nope.

So what did they do? They confused us all and brought in Sam Raimi. Raimi is known for two things. His horror films (especially The Evil Dead trilogy), and for the original Spider-Man trilogy. This guy knows superheroes and horror! So what kind of film is this going to be? Regular superhero stuff? Horror superhero? Some wild ass shit Raimi dreamed in Michigan one cold morning? Who the fuck knows! It’s a mystery. Just like the Multiverse of Madness.

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Run, don’t walk, to the nearest bad joke store for more zingers! 

This film assumes you have seen two things by now, so I am going to as well. WandaVision and Spider-Man: No Way Home. The former is far more important too, so get your 9 half hour episodes on.

This film also takes place in some generic time frame, because they fucked up the years of these things being released. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) has now been invited to Christine’s (Rachel McAdams) wedding! And it definitely isn’t to him. He fucked that shit up. Oh well.

But in the life of a hero, there is always danger, and sure enough, some shit starts flying around. That is where Strange meets America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), being attacked by a giant tentacled eye monster! No name for this film, I think it is copywriter. Eventually Strange and Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) find out that Chavez is from another universe, and get more information about the multiverse. She can travel between them, it is her power, and there is a demon or something after her hoping to steal that gift for their own personal gain.

Shit. What’s a former Sorcerer Supreme to do? Especially when there is evidence of a different Stephen Strange and knowledge that he wasn’t fully on the up and up. Guess it is to enlist the help of some strong entities, and protect her before some universes collide.

Also starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Elizabeth Olsen, and Michael Stuhlbarg. Also more people, but shhh.

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Is this a horror screen shot? Is this fantasy? Is this porn? 

It was very hard to go into this movie without comparing it to Everything Everywhere All At Once. An indie film that could, it is chugging along and everyone is loving it. I loved it! It came out before Doctor Strange 2, and dealt with multiverses, even though a lot of people knew about this one years ago, it still snuck out ahead. Is there room for two multiverse based movies?

Well, Everything Everywhere All At Once had a lot of work to do. It was DENSE as all can be, it had to pack a lot in to tell a complete story while dealing with other universes and going fully bananas. This MCU film has the benefit of dozens of films and TV shows ahead of it to carry various amounts of emotional investiture, to tell its multiverse movie, and it really shows.

Surprisingly, TMoM doesn’t go as bananas as one would expect. I thought it would go through a lot of weird places, and we’d see cameos every few minutes. Fan service sells right now. Which random former Fox properties could show up?! But it didn’t do that, outside of a quick trippy fast montage, similar to experiences in the first Doctor Strange. In reality, this film sticks to only three universes for the most part, which is a bit surprising. It is like in Wreck-It Ralph, when you thought he would get to go to so many different fun video games, then just went to one for a little bit and then spent a lot more time in a candy world than you thought he should. The number of multiverses visited does NOT approach banana levels.

But the ones we do get deliver a lot of fun and interesting concepts. The implications for the future are all there in the film, which are sort of standard now, and a little bit infuriating. For example, the first credit scene is interesting, but how it is shown right after the last scene of the film makes it a bit jarring. Is it minutes later? Is it not? Who knows. The second credit scene is worth every penny though.

HOW ABOUT THE HORROR? IS THERE HORROR?

Yes, I am happy to say, Raimi was able to get some creepy horror things into this. Dark hallways, enemies that won’t stop. Body horror in various levels. We got death in this movie, and some of them are quite shocking and gruesome. We got death which also means dead bodies. Raimi loves to use dead bodies. Some of the dynamic angles he used for just zoom ins to faces and doors felt very Evil Dead-ish as well. You can tell he was behind the film overall, and I love it when there is obvious director influences. Especially in the mega corporations of Disney.

I will say that I thought Scarlett Witch was underdeveloped, but Olsen did a lot with the little she had to work with. There is stark stark difference here between Wanda now and Wanda in WandaVision. I know we had the credits scene of the TV show, but we still have to fill in some gaps on our own to get Wanda to the level she is in this movie. I think she has powerful scenes, but I also know, they could have been better.

At this point, I don’t even know what the next MCU film is. But I do know I am gonna watch it, and statistically, I will find it okay or better, so go on, keep the churn coming. I am not full yet.

3 out of 4.

The Bad Guys

What’s this? An animated film from Dreamworks that I was actually looking forward to, that didn’t have anything do with Dragons or Pandas? This must be a mistake. Dreamworks has been given me trash for years!

The main reason I was a little bit excited about The Bad Guys as a film, we because I knew it was based off of a popular series of graphic novels for kids. I only knew that because I think I own half of them. I haven’t read them, but I heard it was funny. Characters that were perceived as bad, trying to do good, and failing along the way, but hey, at least their heart was in the right place. That seems like a nice story.

Also, after watching the trailer, I enjoyed the animation style they went with. Not a standard CGI, but something maybe inspired by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. It is kind of like cel-shading, while being very active and distinct. The characters certainly pop.

The last time I cared about a new property from Dreamworks was Home, strangely enough, and that one ended up only being okay.

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I can already tell this film will get into some kinky shit.

Set strangely in real life Las Angeles, California, we are in a world with both humans and anthropomorphic animals coexisting together. There are also regular animals I guess, but we won’t talk about them right now.

We are going to talk about a group known entirely as The Bad Guys. Mr. Wolf (Sam Rockwell), Mr. Snake (Marc Maron), Mr. Shark (Craig Robinson), Mr. Piranha (Anthony Ramos), and Ms. Tarantula (Awkwafina). Yeah, their names are just their animal name for whatever reason. They are notorious for stealing things, but the newly elected Governor, Diane Foxington (Zazie Beetz), decides to announce that she feels bad for the Bad Guys, as they are clearly just misunderstood animals who need help.

Huh? How dare she take that approach with them! Time to steal a really famous award, given out specifically to NICE members of society. This next one is going to Professor Rupert Marmalade IV (Richard Ayoada), a pretty swell guy. Unfortunately, while going for the trophy, Mr. Wolf accidentally is put in a position to…HELP someone. Ugh. And strangely enough, it feels good. It is a feeling he wants again, to chase.

After they get arrested, Mr. Wolf convinces the authorities that they can be taught to be good, and enlist the help of Rupert to show them the way. Mr. Wolf also convinces his friends that they can do it just to have a bigger and better heist later. But Does Mr. Wolf want to actually turn over a new leaf?

Also starring Alex Borstein.

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Yep, still looks like a kinky film.

While the animation for The Bad Guys was certainly a plus, the plot is what ends up making this mostly an okay movie. The plot is standard, and pretty obvious, and I am not sure if it is entirely based on the books. This movie serves as an origin film for them I guess, as it is about The Bad Guys when they choose to be bad, and then eventually, choose to be good, whereas the books are about them already trying to be good.

The twists you can see coming, and honestly, most of the conclusions.

And then here is where I can get nitpicky about the world building. This is a world where animals and people coexist as…humanoids. Sure. But I find it uncomfortable that the leads all just have generic names. Mr. or Ms. and their animal name. That is completely ridiculous, because we know there are more Wolves and Sharks in the world, it isn’t just one of each kind. There’s no reason for the generic names, outside of code names for their team, but they literally just have those names no matter what. The only other two main animals have regular names, so there is no reason for that distinction.

On that note, this world also has regular animals. What? Huh? How can that seem to be? The story of Wicked tried to tackle that similar idea, of both bipedal talkative animals along with regular animals, and they did a much better job than this film, because it was just ignored. How are there regular Guinea pigs when there is a main character that is also a Guinea pig. I am uncomfortable with this.

I am also uncomfortable that there are apparently scientists who do testing on animals, when again, see the above point. I believe all the scientists are shown to be human. I definitely am pretty sure every single cop in the movie, of which there are hundreds, is also a human. This film could go into some pretty deep places with this territory, but it is just all background and not important, despite the strange and uncomfortable implications.

Another plus though, is the voice work. I thought Rockwell and Maron knocked it out as the main two villains. I was surprised Ramos and Robinson used very different voices in the movie too. There was an attempt to be a character, not just featuring their normal way of talking. It is great when actors, you know…act.

2 out of 4.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Nicolas Cage. Is he a man, or an aberration? Is he a great actor or a bad actor? Many people have struggled with this question for decades, and it is a question that has brought Abed down to his knees in humility.

Regardless of what you think about Cage, you have certainly heard of him. A lot of people have strong opinions about his acting and his choices, especially recently. He has been in some straight to DVD nonsense, but that is also generally known to be due how one of his financial advisors screwed him out of money and he was stuck paying the bill with his wallet missing. But in the last few years, the bad choices have seemed to drift into weird and interesting choices. Wally’s Wonderland, where he plays a literal silent protagonist and speaks not a single word of dialogue. Mandy, and all of the fucked up movie that is. Pig, a surprisingly amazing drama that looks like a John Wick rip-off that does so much more.

And then I heard about The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. The first description blew me away with what it wanted to do. I knew I had to see it. I went out of my way to watch what I felt were the most essential Cage films I hadn’t yet seen before in my life, leading up to this movie. Just to catch more references and have a better frame of mind for this NickCage-fest. Give me your weird ass films. I need them.

I. Need. Them.

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The different people seeing this film. One who knows and likes Cage movies, the other very confused at who Nick Cage is.

What does a magnificent actor need to do when he finds himself under appreciated and maybe even mocked by friends and fans alike? When your debts are piling up, when your family won’t talk to you, and you see a big film break coming up that will revitalize your career as a major player? After all, maybe the big break will you get you bigger roles, and more clout, (not that you went anywhere), and you can go into the tail end of your career flying high.

That is what is going though Nick Cage’s (Nicolas Cage) head. He has bills to pay, debts, and he can’t land the lead of a new film that he thinks will be a box office and critical success. But his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) had another gig for him, although embarrassing. He just needs to go to another country and go to some super fan’s birthday party. Make an appearance, talk to guests, and easy million dollars. Cage feels desperate, so he takes the gig, but he feels like he is going to also have to retire from acting, that he can’t keep up with the charade.

Of course when Cage gets down there, he makes things awkward. Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) is not just a super-fan, but he also wrote a script and wants Cage to star in a movie. Cage doesn’t know about that, and thinks that Gutierrez is a worker at the mansion. Not to mention that Cage gets intercepted by the CIA (Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz) because they believe Gutierrez recently kidnapped the mayor’s daughter, in order to threaten him before an upcoming election. Gutierrez is awkward, but is he a bad guy? Now Cage has to stay longer than expected, to check the compound, and become a spy, which is basically just acting anyways. Cage is probably the perfect person for this job. Sometimes it is easier to hide with a beacon on your face.

Also starring Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Lily Mo Sheen, Paco León, and Sharon Horgan.

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But really, I just want to watch Cage watch real movies with his fictional family. 

Surprisingly, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is not the zaniest film I have seen this year. Not even the weirdest. It didn’t even make me cry. All of those titles, at this point, would go to Everything Everywhere All At Once.

But this movie is still incredibly fun! I don’t know how to talk about it as someone who doesn’t know much about Cage, so I do apologize in that regard. But if you are familiar with his work and generally receptive to a lot of his films, I can’t imagine now appreciating this fictional version of his life. He pokes fun at his perceptions, while also playing hard into them. It is just so silly, it is infectious. Despite being a film that is a love letter to Cage, it doesn’t completely hog the spotlight, while giving shout outs to other great films in cinema history from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Paddington 2.

Sure, the plot is pretty weak. It is going for meta humor so hard that it doesn’t always land. The CIA plotline, although necessary for the story, feels detracting by taking us away from the funnier moments, which is when Cage and Pascal share the screen.

This is one of those movies for people who love going to the movies. A movie that is mindless fun that doesn’t need you to turn off your brain in order to enjoy it. Cage is living his best life, and we are all just people in the world getting to witness this rebirth of his movie choices (not that he went anywhere), and this is a film about just having to learn to accept it. While not being one of the best movies ever made, it is an enjoyable one, and definitely a film we need in our lives during this time of weary and stress.

3 out of 4.

The Northman

Hey kids, do you love Spider-Man?

Then why not check out The Northman!? He does whatever the…cold North can? Hmm. Nope. This is not a super hero movie. This is just a movie about Vikings!

We don’t really get a lot of Viking movies. A lot of them are trash, remember Pathfinder? I unfortunately do. I wish I could forget. We are luck that the How to Train Your Dragons films are technically Viking inspired. But they are animated and they don’t do a super lot with the Vikings religion and atmosphere. They are cute, they are good, but they aren’t what you think about when you hear a Vikings movie.

We also very recently had the new Assassin’s Creed Valhalla game, to get people in the spirit. I don’t know if the God of War reboot counts as a Viking game, but it does deal with Norse mythology, so close enough. Not to mention we had several seasons of a Vikings show, which probably disappointed a lot of people without going too hardcore with it.

All of this to say, that time for something like The Northman to come out has been building up for a few years. And I know I was ready.

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This was me screaming like a giddy little school girl.

Set sometime before the year 1000, we start off in some Viking kingdom. The king of this land is King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) and he is a mighty warrior. His village often gets loot and slaves and plunder from their conquests. His son, Amleth (Oscar Novak), looks up to his father despite rarely seeing him. His wife, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) is loyal and true. And his brother, Fjölnir The Brotherless (Claes Bang), well…Let’s just say that he earned that title by betraying the King and killing him to take his kingdom. Damn Auvandil, sorry to see you go.

Luckily, Amleth is able to escape by boat. He promises to enact vengeance for the life of his father and rescue his mother, who was taken by Fjölnir. He just has to grow up and get strong. So, several years later, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) does just that. He was found as an orphan by another tribe, and eventually joined their elite wolf fighter unit, and he was a mighty warrior. But thanks to a prophecy, he was eventually told about how he could find Fjölnir and finally complete his vows.

He just now has to journey to Iceland. He pretends to be a slave. A big strong man like him? Yeah. He just does what Clark Kent does. He hunches his shoulders and looks down a lot. But this gets him to Iceland, so he can find Fjölnir, complete his promise, and fulfill his destiny.

Also starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Elliott Rose, Willem Dafoe, Eldar Skar, and Björk!

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The face you make when you need this little weakling to avenge your future death. 

I think I need to talk about Robert Eggers. Outside of a few video shorts, Eggers has now directed three motion pictures. I think most people who have seen his work would agree he is hitting all of the right notes. The Witch was terrifying, unique, and really felt accurate to the area, which was a nice surprise. It helped introduce the world to Anya Taylor-Joy. The Lighthouse was an strong follow up, an impressive visual film with excellent performances from the leads. I didn’t love it as much as The Witch, but I recognized its ambitiousness. 

The Northman however just takes the ball that is already knocked out of the park, and he knocks it into another park. The Northman is a lot of things, except for boring. This is a film that the trailer does justice for, while still giving you very little of the story. It is a revenge flick. It is kind of like Hamlet. It is not just a straight action fantasy film, it has a lot of deeper and slower moments. The film is tense, and intense at various points. 

Honestly, I was surprised at so many moments of the plot. Big strong Amleth finds his uncle pretty early on in the film, I was assuming that it would be over fast. But the set backs that occur are not expected. They do make sense, and it just helps build up some of the bigger events, while still allowing teases along the way.

The Northman is just such a visually stunning film. It is gorgeous, and we get to see many different scenes and locations. There are some battles and scenes that take place in night, with unfortunate authentic lighting, but it isn’t a majority of the film. It is a film that wants to be seen. 

All of this build up from Viking properties have given me what, frankly, is probably the best movie about Vikings ever made. I don’t think Eggers can keep up this pace. He might have to retire before Marvel has him make a film where he has no control in the output. 

4 out of 4.

Father Stu

From the poster of Father Stu, it seems like a movie that definitely deals with religion, but is probably not a religious film. Like, it won’t have a lot of plot lines where the true believers get what they want, and cheesy sappy music. But good humor. And even though it will be set in church settings, and not necessarily poking “fun” at a religion, it will still acknowledge some of those weird things.

I did not know how much of a personal project this was for Mark Wahlberg, the lead. Father Stu was a real person, that Wahlberg might not have even met. But he heard about his story, and thought it was inspirational and it touched him, so he wanted to get that story out there.

And apparently that too was a struggle. Hard to get financing, people didn’t want to make this movie. But Wahlberg did, and this movie now exists, because he had to personally finance large portions of it. Why is that? Mel Gibson apparently convinced him to do it. To “bet on himself”, where Gibson was said to have spent $30 million of his own money on The Passion of the Christ. So Wahlberg said if Gibson can do it, then he could do it, I guess.

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Gibson is not really the person that Wahlberg should be emulating in his private life though.

Stuart (Mark Wahlberg) does not have a whole lot going good in his life. His brother died when he was young. His father (Mel Gibson) was a drunk and left the family to work in another state, abandoning them. His mom (Jacki Weaver) is helpful and cares about him, but she is more out of it for the same reasons listed above. But now Stuart is a boxer! He is relatively good at it. But it has led to more problems with his health. Not normal problems that boxers face. Clearly, it must be changed, though.

He figured out the perfect job. He is going to move to Hollywood and become an actor! That is where his dad lives, but it is not about him. It is about Stuart becoming a big celebrity actor. And working at a grocery store until he can get a job. But while at the store, he meets Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a person shopping who definitely doesn’t care about Stuart. However, he decides to stalk and harass her until he can meet her at her Catholic Church, despite being raised atheist.

So sure, his new goal is to woo her over, and become baptized, and Catholic. Yadda yadda yadda, this somehow leads to him deciding to become a Father himself. Yep, this is where his life really should be headed. And that ends up leading to even more issues it turns out.

Also starring Malcolm McDowell, Aaron Moten, and Cody Fern.

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Oh hey, Mark, you got some stuff on your forehead. Did you know that? 

I guess on one note, the movie is exactly what I expected based on my earlier guesses. On a different note, I didn’t realize how awkward the story and movie choices would be.

For example, Gibson is a terrible person and I have been trying to avoid his movies, for obvious reasons. So to have him be an emotionally distant father, and known atheist to our main character feels intentional. The one notably non-religious character is a bad character and father. And they also give him a redemption arc at the end. It felt like the movie was doing that more for Gibson, than the character. “See, people can get better.” Sorry, just because they can get better doesn’t mean I need to watch them acting.

As for Stuart? I also don’t like his character. Notably, he is meant to come from a rough past, and a rough middle, to lead to his eventual conversion and holy days. You know, to be a Father who knows how to talk to the community and is okay with swear words. But…I don’t like him for being a scum bag. So the real life Stu stalked a woman whom he met at his job, when she just wanted to shop, and let him know that she had no interest in him. He went to her church to start going, and being awkward the entire time, to suddenly convert for her. That just feels like months of harassment. Especially when, after a series of events, he convinces her finally to break her vow of chastity for sex because she now feels like they will be together forever.

Just to then go and say he wants to be a pastor, who cannot marry or have sex, after taking something that she personally held dear. What the fuck, man.

Then the character became a father, and eventually died. But the movie does take liberties with the story. It adds a lot of setbacks into his graduating into a full Father, given his deteriorating physical condition. But in real life, that didn’t seem to be an issue at all, and is just another strange set back instead of telling his actual story, which is what they set out to do. That is why the ending is so vague with how long he was practicing before he eventually died. Because the movie makes it imply like, a year or two maybe. And not quite a few years.

Father Stu takes a troublesome actor,  to give him a redemptive arc for…reasons. Father Stu is about a troublesome real life person, who eventually did good, while glossing over exactly how troublesome his life was. And playing harassment for laughs.

And yet at the same time, it still seems to go a lot more religious than I initially expected. Father Stu is a lot of things, including amusing occasionally, but a good movie is not one of those things.

1 out of 4.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

I knew I wanted to see Everything Everywhere All At Once when I saw the poster for it. It is full, vibrant, and wild. I didn’t care what the plot was. The title was good. The poster was good. Harry Shum Jr. from Glee was in it. Let’s go, I’m sold, let’s do it.

But then I saw that it was directed by The Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert). They have only directed one feature film together before this one, and it was Swiss Army Man.

Swiss Army Man was easily one of my favorite films of the year it came out, and was in my top 50 of the decade. It was wholly unique, unlike anything else I had seen before. It took a ridiculous topic and made it WORK. It should be talked about more in cinema circles, honestly.

If that is what they could do on their first try, I was damn near giddy to see what they would do with an ambitious title like Everything Everywhere All At Once.

EYES
The third eye really brings up the extra levels of power.

Everything. A lot is happening to Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh). She is trying to run a laundromat. She is trying to have a Chinese New Year party for the surrounding area and community. Probably an idea to help their laundromat which isn’t doing great. And they are being audited by the IRS and have an important meeting today to show their receipts and prove their business expenses. Her father (James Hong) is here visiting and judges her family and everything about her.

Her husband (Ke Huy Quan) is a nice guy, but he seems a bit bumbling and she has to be the serious one to solve the problems in her eyes. Her daughter (Stephanie Hsu) is struggling with feeling accepted. She has come out as gay and Evelyn has said she is fine with, but refuses to tell the grandpa because she may be secretly ashamed. Evenlyn is also constantly nagging on her daughter, to fix things that aren’t actually big issues.

Things seem to be imploding on Evelyn today. And things get more intense at the IRS building. Because at some point she finds herself in a closet, suddenly an instantly. Her consciousness going between the Evelyn at the desk and the Evelyn in the closet. It seems like it is her husband talking to her, but he claims he isn’t her husband. He says she is needed to help save the universe. Shit is getting bad, and she might be the last hope.

Oh well, just pile that onto Evelyn’s plate why don’t you.

Also starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., Brian Le, and Andy Le.

hot dog fingers what about them
I will not be taking questions at this time over this image.

I put off writing this review for so long. Not because I didn’t like it, because I loved it, I did. But because I knew I wouldn’t have the words to do it justice. I didn’t even know how I would go about describing the plot, because I didn’t want to give that much away. I decided to watch the trailer and base it on that, and still told a lot less information than the trailer, so I am comfortable on that front.

Everything Everywhere All At Once is a masterpiece of cinema, that about sums it up. It is an incredible DENSE film for the subject matter, and it doesn’t hold anything back. A common complaint I give for films is when they “don’t go hard enough” and this movie goes hard enough. It goes off the deep end real early on, and gets the viewer to catch up along the way, not boring us with exposition to explain things necessarily before they happen. The actual beginning feels like it is going to be a stressful movie similar to Uncut Gems, but when it gets supernatural, the stress levels are amped up significantly.

It switches between so many time lines and events, and molds things into one that if you don’t pay attention you will be lost. And I love that. I love that the film rewards the audience for paying attention, for looking for clues, and for treating us like we are capable humans of following a narrative.

I can’t say I understand every movie, or that I even fully understand this one, but I get enough of it to love it and want to see it more than once. It is not going to be a movie for everybody, and likely the weirdest film I will see this entire year. It is a shame it is coming out so close to Dr. Strange 2, which will also go for some similar multi-verse themes. But I think Everything Everywhere All At Once will stand up on its own, and it will likely go a lot farther than a Disney backed super hero movie.

Finally, Yeoh is the main character of this film, and she does an amazing job, a character unlike one she ever really plays in my eyes. But Quan and Hsu are a big part of the heart and soul of the film. Because in the end, it is still a very touching family film, and like lots of other films recently, dealing with generational trauma and overcoming the sins of our ancestors. I hope to see big things from Quan especially in the future.

4 out of 4.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

They call him Sonic! Cause he is faster than sound, he’s always jumping around.
Blue hedgehog Sonic! With Incredible speed, he’s moving his feet.

The inevitable has finally happened, we have been given Sonic the Hedgehog 2. And hey look, it doesn’t have a subtitle. How nice of it to name itself after the second game exactly, while also having a poster look very similar to the game cartridge.

The first film, which released right before pandemic things, came out to VOD services faster as a result, and was one of those early bright spots for movie watchers with families, along with Trolls: World Tour and Onward. And for sure, the film did fine, especially when compared to other video game movies. After they fixed the CGI monstrosity that was the original, they put a pretty good story, despite the increased human elements to the plot (which every film always has to do). I was relatively excited to see what they would do with a sequel, and continuing on with the franchise.

stashe
How annoying would drinking anything with froth be with that ‘stashe?

Set…some amount of time after the first film, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is still hanging out in Green Hills and living a calm life of quiet. Except when he goes to random cities to attempt to fight crime real quick, causing damage in the process. Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) are now surrogate parents for him, and want to steer him into good decisions, to make sure he uses his great power responsibly. They also wish he could have any friends that are similar to him.

Good news! A fox with two tails shows up, and his nickname is Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), and he is here to warn him of a threat. Oh okay, bad news. Crap. It turns out Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) has found a way to get off of that mushroom planet. With the help of a strong Echidna nicknamed Knuckles (Idris Elba), they have returned to Earth. Robotnik wants revenge on Sonic, and Knuckles has his own reason to hunt down the hedgehog.

Can. Sonic. Become. A. True. Hero. And save the day, again? With a bigger threat than the last time?

Also starring Natasha Rothwell, Shemar Moore, Adam Pally, and Lee Majdoub.

stars
Oh yeah, here is an image of the film’s stars doing some exciting standing.

Honestly, as expected, the sequel to this movie was mostly just okay. Here are some plusses though! For those who are big fans of the game series, this film has a lot more references to the series and its lore than the previous film. It is jacked up with more. Including special moves between the various characters. The Chaos Emerald and its various parts. And a couple more that I won’t say for spoilers, but were very exciting for the audience. The last credit scene in particular, despite being really predictable, made the audience behind me go crazy with excitement. I hadn’t heard sudden cheers so loud sine Avengers: Endgame.

I also like that they were able to better downplay Marsden/Sumpter’s involvement by having more Sonic characters show up. They now got less screen time, which is preferable. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t what anyone cares about in a Sonic film. Carrey, however, could play Robotnik for 10 more movies and I won’t get sick of him. I hope his mustache gets bigger and bigger with each subsequent film.

Schwartz continued to be excellent as the Sonic voice (and I was surprised that they put in a Parks and Recreation reference due to him, but I loved it). It was awesome that Tails was voiced by his current voice actress, and Elba as Knuckles brought a lot of sexy to the role that he claimed he wasn’t going for, but still happened. Knuckles as a character was strange. Because we know he isn’t really the bad guy. So we know his arc will change in the movie. But at one point he became basically Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy with how he handled things literally, but yet it still felt funny.

The plot itself is the weaker elements. I still think there was far too much of a human element. The Hawaii scenes felt like filler, waiting for it to get to the good stuff. I don’t care about the government and its response to Sonic. That was last movie, move on. It didn’t have a lot of action sequences for something that should have had quite a few. A lot of them also feature prolonged chase scenes. Maybe that is just because of Sonic needing to be a speed force, and thus a lot of chases. But several of them involve him being in or driving a vehicle. I am not here to watch a fast running creature drive a truck. What? Why would Sonic do that?

Sonic the Hedgehog excels when it goes into the gaming lore and references, and lets us down when it focuses on the human characters and their drama.

2 out of 4.

Morbius

Ah yes, the expanded Spider-Man universe from Sony. They have been talking about this for years. Remember the announcement of an Aunt May movie? That was back around the time as Andrew Garfield Spider-Man. But now that Venom has been slightly successful, and Tom Holland has been wildly successful, Sony is under the impression they are doing something right and going to milk the fuck out of the Spidey-universe.

After all, we got teased a lot of villains in Spider-Man: No Way Home. And we have heard the casting announcements. Besides Morbius, we have a Kraven the Hunter movie coming out. Now a Madame Web film. Rumors of the a Sinister Six film, maybe Spider-Gwen, maybe a Tobey Maguire Spider-Man 4. Sony is exploring all options.

The only issue is…Sony is historically not great at making these movies without Marvel’s help the last decade. Venom: Let There Be Carnage seems to be a strange case, since it was a decent film, just still had some awkward B-movie comic book feels to it. Sony likes to rush things with their Spider-Man movies. Sure, Morbius was pushed back several times, including this year for some “reshoots”. But just because it was going to be a January movie initially doesn’t mean it has to feel like a January movie, right?

panic
If you need some blood, cutting the PALM OF YOUR HAND is one of the worst places. What the hell?

Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) has one big problem. He has a really rare blood disorder. Which one? Uhh, a rare one, that is what. It has no cure. And it seems to require a blood transfusion three times a day in order to keep surviving. That is rough. He has had it for most of his life, but he was really smart, so he got sent to a smart school, and got his PhD by 19. Hey, life is short for him, I guess, better go through it fast. His friend/pseudo-brother is Milo (Matt Smith), who happens to be super rich too, with the same disorder. Michael plans to cure their disease, at any means possible, and Milo is gonna fund that research.

So how are they going to do that? Well, apparently by experimenting with vampire bat DNA. Because they are the only mammal that has evolved with the ability to consume blood, something something made up science, Morbius wants to put the bat DNA into his DNA to see if he is cured! He had to go to South America to get a bunch to bring back to NYC, you know, for science. And then he does the experiment, with his fiancé and lab partner, Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), which is a few ethics problems rolled into one.

The experiment goes painful, and it works, I guess. Well, he does have his eyes and skin change color, his teeth somehow grow into fangs, and he can’t control his instincts. He now wants to kill all these random dudes with guns, not Bancroft, draining them of their own blood quickly. He can also…fly? Sort of? And see bullets in slow motion? And some strange level of echolocation-punch. Wow, what a surprise. But don’t worry, the range ends, and then he is back to normal. But stronger looking, less frail, and actual color in his skin. Until his body starts to deteriorate back into his normal frail self, unless he eats more blood.

How does he control the more-Vampire looking version of himself? I guess he just concentrates really hard. Milo wants the cure too, so he forces it upon himself, and sure enough, he is more evil than Morbius, so Morbius wants to cure him and put a stop to it, while cops and others are trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Also starring Jared Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Al Madrigal, and Michael Keaton, for a little bit.

running
Get yourself some bat-DNA. Makes you get all ghoul-y. 

Since 2015, there have only been two worse comic book based movies than Morbius, based on my humble reviewer opinion of course. Fantastic Four and Suicide Squad. But Morbius is bad in a different way. Morbius is bad because it attempted to be dark, moody, and serious. Instead it gave us a rushed plot, terrible characters, vague science, and just nonsensical plot elements.

For the umpteenth time, yes, this is a fantasy film where things don’t reflect reality. But it is still based in our reality, and uses a lot of rules. I know vampires aren’t realistic, but this film has powers that still don’t make sense. They never even attempt to explain how getting some bat DNA allows Morbius to weirdly fly. Not sure if it is just a gliding with style mechanic? And part of it feels like teleporting? But they just pop on some purple blurs around him, and he can now go wherever he feels like through the air. The echolocation elements aren’t consistent. Apparently he can not just do it for almost an entire city, he can focus in on a specific thing he wants to hear, and only hear that to find his prey. I feel like echolocation in NYC at a powerful scale would be maddening, but what do I know.

Vague/undefined powers always piss me off in these sorts of things. That is one of my biggest complaints about the “snake mutant” in The Wolverine. Hell at one point, Morbius just yells and apparently commands thousands of NYC bats to come to him, and he controls them to attack. But also, we all know they aren’t vampire bats. That is why he had to go to another continent to get the bats. Why would his vampire bat genes let him control random fruit and cave bats, that are all different species? Is there a bat quality that let’s an alpha bat command the rest of the bats? What if Spider-Man could just scream and have spiders show up? That would be frightening.

But for the rest of the movie, the plot is nonsensical as well. For a quick “joke”, the kid who grows up to be our rich villain is called Milo, because that is what Michael wanted to call him so he wouldn’t get too close, I guess. And now everyone just calls him Milo? He goes by that officially as an adult? Like. Why? Just have him be named Milo. Unnecessary complication for no payoff. There is no real reason why Milo would turn out to be a ridiculous jerk when he is in this now Vampire-like form, versus Michael who can just control it better? Is it a smart thing? I will admit, the movie was going so poorly I was going in and out of sleep at one point, but I am pretty sure they never explained it. Nor did they explain the transformed self really outside of some emotional balance. I can buy a weird DNA thing permanently changing one to look different. But to constantly having your body shifting between these forms, changing color, growing fangs, whatever, without the use of any sort of magic, just science/DNA is uncomfortable in the universe they have set up.

By the time the movie was over, I was glad at its short run time. The ending is still abrupt. It doesn’t really make sense as a stopping point for where we are at the films plot, but okay. So then they saddled on two credit scenes, the only scenes that feature Michael Keaton. I think these will count as spoiler free, just in case you are worried. The first is, uhh… fine. It doesn’t make sense based on what was established in Spider-Man: No Way Home however, and officially this film shouldn’t even be connected to it.

But the second one? It was just so…dumb. Did they film it in one take and say that was enough? Why was the delivery of both characters so bad? Why would Keaton’s character even bring up that name? Why would the other character nonchalantly agree, despite definitely having no clue what the hell Keaton’s character is talking about? It is so, so, bad. The rating of this movie was teetering between a 1 and a 0 at that point, and those two scenes were enough to figure out where this one needed to go.

0 out of 4.