Tag: Fantasy

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.

running
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 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.

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.

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?

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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.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Ready for that new movie, Spider-Man: All the Hype in the World?

Oh, it is called No Way Home. Fine, that is fine. It could have also just been called “Print Money for us Please” because a lot of people are going to see this movie and they are going to see it fast. This is arguably the most excited people have been for a movie since Avengers: Endgame. After all, in our last Spider-Man movie, we were given a very strong credits scene. [Note: I hated that this was a credit scene. That scene was really important for the film. It made the ending really work. The fact that it was “credits” scene and arguably less important really bugs me]. It helped build up the hype.

I personally am hoping that this movie does…something to help establish what the actual fuck Marvel (even if Sony is helming this film like always) is doing with their time. If I see one more “Present Day” tag line in the MCU this year I will lose it. No one has any clue when any of these movies are taking place, because they all are in the future based on the Thanos Snap.

Is this one in 2024? 2025? Who knows. Will the movie know? Doubtfully.

JUMP
Is she enjoying this ride? 
Spider-Man: No Way Home takes place basically right after the end of Long Way Home. Mysterio’s last trick. Telling everyone Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) identity and blaming the bad stuff on Parker.

Now everyone knows! Now everyone knows about his friends and his girlfriend (Zendaya) and that causes issues. Some still love him, some now hate him. Some just want to make his life miserable. Hell, it is even affecting his ability to get into college. Because they know his name, and they aren’t sure if they want that publicity or trouble. Is he a MURDERER?

Needless to say, Peter feels like shit about this. And he hates it more that it is affecting those who love him and he loves in returns. So he wants things to change. Maybe time travel? Maybe people can just forget the whole thing happened? Maybe magic can be involved?

Well, once magic gets involved, and potentially unstable magic at that, it seems like the reality Peter knows is not going to be the same forever. Time to face old villains for the first time.

Also starring some other people you know from these movies. Tony Revolori, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Martin Starr, J.B. Smoove, J.K. Simmons, Benedict Wong, and Hannibal Buress. Also (checks trailers to see what is and isn’t a spoiler) Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans, and Jamie Foxx!

Anyone else? Maybe! Maybe we also get other villains played by Paul Giamatti, Dane DeHaan/James Franco, or Topher Grace? Maybe we get villains in the last two movies showing up, like Michael Keaton and Jake Gyllenhaal. Will we have past Spider-Men like Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire? Will DONALD GLOVER appear as old Miles Morales?

Doc Ock
This isn’t a spoiler, this is the main advertisement! 

Spider-Man: Oops! All Villains! edition. Frankly, I wondered if this would feel crowded. Crowded is what they were going for after all. And arguably, crowded villains helped kill the last two Spider-Man franchises. “But no! This time we will do it better!” And how is that? By giving us previously established villains so we don’t need an eight hour movie. Sure, it requires a five film commitment, but they figure if you are watching these new ones, you probably already committed to the over 20 that is the MCU at this point.  So why not five more, assuming you didn’t already have them?

It works though. For those without the previous films, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I can’t get myself in that headspace. It is a risky move, and a ridiculous move, but damn it, trying new stuff is one of the reasons I watch movies. To see those that make risks, and this film is so risky. I don’t care what the past has told us, MCU printing their name on it doesn’t always guarantee success. Having a likable cast can help a lot.

This is the most emotional we have seen Holland as our web crawler before, and that includes the time when he didn’t feel so good in outer space. From the villains, Molina brings the same despair and anger he had before. Foxx felt better and more confident than the shit they gave him in his original. Ifans/Church were very underutilized, in more ways than one. I just assume the actors couldn’t really be involved that much with the film.

But Dafoe? Holy shit Dafoe. He has had like, twenty years to forget how to be the Green Goblin, and I was honestly worried about him the most. I know he is a fantastic actor, but even early on into his scenes in this one, I was skeptical, but that dude NAILED IT so hard. That is some real good review writing right there. What an absolute madlad he is. Why did they kill him off in that first film? So sad.

Honestly, people will get mad at me if I say much more. So in order to keep things vague and mysterious, I will. Let’s just say, I cried once, and it is not likely a moment you would fully expect. There is obviously an early credits scene, and an end credits scene. Feel free to leave early after the first one, in my opinion. The post credits scene is trash.

4 out of 4.

Encanto

Welcome to Encanto, or what I also call it, the second Disney Animated film this year. Disney has been doing an every other thing in regards to their films. One a musical and one that is not. We are at the musical one which meant I went in pretty excited despite being a bit weary about the overall plot.

But…Lin-Manuel Miranda helped make the plot of the film, and the music behind it. And I can’t not get behind a project he is involved in. Hell, watching Vivo was a surprise for me because I didn’t know he was involved with that.

If you look back at my review of Raya, you would have seen that Disney has been kicking Pixar’s ass the last few years overall. And not surprisingly that was still true. Luca was okay, Encanto was amazing. Pixar can just disband now. Before we get Cars 4.

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Don’t tell any kids I said there could be a Cars 4. They might start acting up. 

Years ago, Alma Madrigal (María Cecilia Botero) was on the run with her husband and three kids, with members of her community, in the Columbia mountains. They were being chased out by invaders. And in that time, she lost her husband in order for the rest of her family to be saved. She prayed and wished for help, and her magical home was born, protected in the mountains, to grow a wonderful community that looked out for each other. And her three kids were given magical powers once they hit a certain age, to help protect the community. And their kids as well.

That is, until we got to Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). The door didn’t work. No powers were granted. Something was wrong. But she is upbeat nonetheless. Who needs /powers/ in a family of superpowered individuals in a magical house to have a good time?

But her younger brother is now up for his. The first since she was denied. If his power doesn’t manifest, was it her fault? And if there starts to be visions of her breaking their magical house and tearing their family apart, will it be her fault? And should she just, like, leave, you know?

Also starring the voices of Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Adassa, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Maluma, Mauro Castillo, Alan Tudyk, the singing voice of Olga Merediz, and of course, John Leguizamo.

mirror
You see, the house is a metaphor…for family.

A lot of these recent animated Pixar/Disney movies have had a mostly predictable plot. Frozen would end with her in control of her powers. Moana would return the heart of Te Fiti. And in Luca they would be gay, do crimes. But I found myself constantly guessing at where it would go in this movie and being wrong, and I really enjoyed that. I mean, I knew it would involve the house breaking, or not. Powers being gained, or not. But the how? The why? That was exciting and unique in the movie.

I loved the music in Encanto so much, I wished I could listen to it on my way home from the theater. But alas, at that time it wasn’t available yet. I even waited to write this review until I had a chance to re-listen to the songs. So many of them feel great, with layers and multiple voices, and different harmonies. I was surprised to find that Beatriz also sang all her own parts. She was very limited in In The Heights, so I just assumed she couldn’t sing, but she did great.

Encanto is just a beautiful movie. I think it is interesting that the main character is clearly interested in embroidery, given her clothes and what’s in her drawers, but it was never actually talked about at any point in a significant way. It is just a fact about her character. I especially liked the animation when they did the Bruno, Luisa, and Isabela songs. It was just constant visual explosion on the screen, and it left me in down right awe.

I am happy that Disney made a somewhat simple and small movie about people with gifts. I am glad they didn’t go against what they were preaching the entire film like they did in so many other classic Disney tales. And I am glad that Miranda’s genius keeps growing, and I hate him, and I love him, for it.

4 out of 4.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

And now, presenting, the 25th film in the MCU series, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Of course, definitely the hero you imagined would be in this chain of movies eventually.

For fans of Marvel movies, they should be stoked. We get more representation, a richer group of deep cut heroes, and of course, potentially a fix for the “The Mandarin” plot of Iron Man 3. Fix is a weird word, and I still find it hard to talk about Iron Man 3. The Mandarin twist was terrible for people who like the comics, but it was a great twist from a regular movie going point of view. But still, despite the problematic nature of that villain, it was disappointing that he wouldn’t ever make it into the MCU.

You know, until now, but fixed in the best way they could.

3D
Do movies come out in 3D anymore? Did the Pandemic kill that?

For over a thousand year, the ten-rings have been around at least, giving one man (Tony Leung) immortality and great power in China. He used it for the quest for more power, and building up an organization, and a life without worry. But he wanted more. He wanted to discover the location of a mystical lost city, supposedly blessed by the gods, named Ta Lo. There he met Li (Fala Chen), whom defeated him for the first time, and they fell in love.

The village abandoned, they had two kids, and now, decades later, Shaun (Simu Liu) is living his best life alone in San Francisco, being a parking attendant with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). Their high school friends are confused by their relationship, or lack there of, and why they are seemingly wasting their life away. But hey, they are having fun, and that is important.

But what is that? Assassins? After his jade necklace his mom gave him a long time ago? Turns out, much to Katy’s surprise, that Shaun can really fight like an ultimate badass, and he has been hiding it from her. Looks like Shaun is getting dragged back into a past he wanted to escape from and forget.

Also starring Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Wah Yuen, Florian Munteanu, Andy Le, Ben Kingsley, Tim Roth (maybe?), and Benedict Wong.

rings
Orange and blue colors for an action film shot? How original!

Can Marvel still make me care about more and more superheroes? The answer is a resounding yes!

To answer my inquiry above, this is an interesting movie to arguably be a direct sequel to Iron Man 3, but it closes off some of the open stories from that film in an exciting and worthwhile way. By having an artifact for over a thousand years helping shape parts of human history, it had the potential to feel ret-conn-y but it made its limited use seem overall plausible. If the villain gets to be the dad of this story, it feels like it is earned and respected their relationship, and the waves that it has gone through over the decades. That’s right. Another strong Marvel villain.

Liu is a wonderful lead, both in terms of his acting and his physicality that he brings to the role. Awkwafina works extremely well here as well, although just about her character, whereas the sister, played by Zhang, brings a different interesting angle for a powerful woman fighter into this universe.

One minor bug I had, and this is true about every movie that does it, is when they have very specific flashbacks (in this case, 1996), and then come back to present and literally tell us it is the present day. Normally, that is already annoying, because in a few years that makes less and less sense. If it is supposed to be 20 years ago, say it, don’t let it mesh over time. However, this film has to take place in like, 2023 I imagine? Based on everything, it is after Thanos’ snap had been reversed, so it isn’t even present day now.

A bigger complaint is a trope that this film did, that I don’t know the right name for. But if 90% of the film is spent towards trying to prevent this one irreversible bad thing from being happened (door open, something summoned, spell cast, etc), and then it actually happens at the end? Well, it gets resolved very quickly and then we wonder if it actually was worth all this effort this whole time. At least with Infinity War, the bad thing happened, and then it wasn’t fixed for a long time.

This doesn’t take away from the incredible choreography, effects, fighting, and new characters for us to swoon and simp for. I am excited for what he can actually bring to the future of these franchises, and I want more. Give me that diversity. (Also me, I don’t know if Eternals will be my type of film, but that is a later story).

3 out of 4.

Cinderella (2021)

Cinderella, Cinderella, there are so many movies about Cinderella. And books. And plays, I bet. Sometimes I wish things never made it to the public domain so we wouldn’t have to get new versions of the same thing a thousand times.

At the start of Disney’s “let’s make all of our old stuff into live action” phase, Cinderella was one of the first ones. It was pretty, but it was pointless.

So why now? Why another one? Well, this one isn’t Disney, so that is probably a plus. Maybe it will be more edgy. (Checks rating, it is PG). Nope, not that.

Oh, this one is a musical. And not just a musical, but a jukebox musical. It is really easy to make a jukebox musical on the most basic level, but it is pretty hard to make a GOOD jukebox musical. For every Moulin Rouge! there are ten Strange Magics.

toss
And frankly, at this point, this is a toss up.

Plot wise, you know the basics. Ella (Camila Cabello) is living with her step-mother (Idina Menzel) and two step-sisters (Maddie Baillio, Charlotte Spencer), and isn’t having a good time. They aren’t related, they are just in a house of convenience, so she has to do a lot more chores and takes a lot more scorn. She does make dresses though. She wants to have her own dress shop one day, but women can’t own businesses due to the laws of the land. That is horsefuckery.

Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) is a prince who doesn’t really want to be a prince. Fuck the responsibilities and expectations. He wants to just hang with his bros. Have fun. Live his life. He doesn’t want to be forced to be marry, and doesn’t look forward to taking over from his folks (Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver) in the future. His younger sister, Gwen (Tallulah Greive) definitely does want to lead, but she is, you know, a ~~woman~~ so she has no seat at the table. That’s a theme, damn it.

Anyways, step mother is going to be mean, there is going to be a ball, there is going to be a fabulous godmother (Billy Porter) and a clock is going to strike midnight. But does Ella or the Prince actually care about love and the old version of a happily ever after?

Also starring Romesh Ranganathan, James Acaster, James Corden, Fra Fee, Doc Brown, Rob Beckett, and Jenet Le Lacheur.

fab
Yes they say godmother damn it, and I am all here for that.

And here we are, shocked as all I can imagine, that I didn’t hate this version of Cinderella. Honestly, random themed jukebox musicals can bug the piss out of me. Even themed ones are usually disappointing. I feel like I hear a lot of the same songs in these musicals over and over again. How many times has Material Girl probably been used in other jukebox musicals? You can tell what songs have cheaper rights than others a lot of the time through this.

Another issue with these things is that the songs usually sound…the same as the originals. You can’t hear the artists actual voice, there is nothing new to it, no tempo, just here is a cover that sounds like the original. Boring. Yawn.

And yet, for Cinderella, for the most part, it seems like they definitely tried to avoid that. I would say at least half of the songs felt relatively unique, whether it be in the sound or the way it was presented. Opening up the musical with a Rhythm Nation / You Gotta Be mash up I would have never expected (but you can tell the makers loved that era of music). I was expecting to roll my eyes at Somebody to Love (I mean, we already had a medieval fantasy film use that, come on!) and then really enjoyed it in the film context for the story. Damn.

Honestly, my biggest issue with the music is unfortunately Cabello at the lead. I don’t know anything about her as a pop artist, I don’t know if I have heard of a song by her before. But a lot of her songs come across as a generic pop sound that was overly produced and autotuned. And that is unfortunate, because other moments seem to let her actual voice come out more (slower numbers with less music behind it) and it detracts from it. Similar to the problems that came across in Beauty and the Beast.

In terms of actual story, Cinderella does attempt to fix some of the problems with the Cinderella story. We don’t have a love at first sight situation between the two anymore. Ella doesn’t just work and be submissive until magic saves her. The step-sisters aren’t bad they just are more afraid of their own mother. The step-mother isn’t the worst (until she does dress stuff) and at least give us a reason for why she is that way (doesn’t redeem her, but hey, a reason). It gives us a happily ever after that came from work, and from years of effort, and not because of getting married.

Brosnan is in this film as the king, and seemingly was picked to be in this musical just because of the backlash to Mamma Mia! singing, just to have a joke about his singing. But as old angry king he is good. Porter as the godmother worked well and gave a decent enough statement to the idea of magic and its existence in this movie. And according Jenet le Lacheur, who plays a court friend of the prince, is likely the first openly trans actor to have been cast in a Hollywood musical film, which is worth noting and celebrating. A lot of these are things Disney wouldn’t have the gall to do.

Overall, I was excited with Cinderella by the time I was done with it. I went in expecting the worst, but a lot of the soundtrack worked, and the cast of characters made it a more enjoyable and worthwhile experience. I am just annoyed more that I can’t listen to the soundtrack until the films actually release date. 2021 is the year of movie musicals.

3 out of 4.

Army of the Dead

Zachary Theodore Snyder, you have been in the news a lot lately you have.

What, with your cuts of movies, and your…well, family problems that are very sad and that sucks. But you have been mostly in the news because of other properties that aren’t your actual doing. Sure, Justice League did suck, but don’t worry, the Zack Snyder’s Justice League still wasn’t that great either, and much longer in mediocrity.

What happened to the Zack Snyder I used to know ,the one who did his own work? (Technically, I never knew that Snyder. I learned about him with 300, so I have only known him as someone who adapted graphic novels/comics to film, and I liked them. Heck, I liked Sucker Punch, which was basically his only original film at that time, not based on another property.

So I am here for a chance for Army of the Dead. His own Zombie flick, not a sequel like his Dawn of the Dead, which I most definitely did not ever watch.

gun
Should I go back and watch all the classic zombie films? Nah, let’s just shoot them from my memory.

Shit! Zombies!

They actually use the word in this movie, and that is nice, because a lot of films with zombies don’t. Anyways. Some Area 51 army dudes are transporting secret cargo between facilities, and have a stupid little accident that flips their vehicle and opens it up. And what is inside? A zombie! A smart, strong, fast zombie (Richard Cetrone), who kills the guards, makes a few zombies, and sets his sight for the place with the lights in the middle of the desert, Las Vegas baby!

This film takes place a few weeks after these events, with the city not only completely overrun with Zombies, but thankfully also walled off from the outside. There are communities outside the city, a lot of lost lives, and America might go and just Nuke it to deal with this threat before it gets out.

But one casino owner (Hiroyuki Sanada) wants his money out of there. So he hires a team to get his money, offering them a lot. They just have to go get in, hack a safe, get the money, and repair a helicopter in the city to fly out of there. And he picks Scott (Dave Bautista), a man who survived Vegas already and has shown capabilities. So he gets a team, including his daughter (Ella Purnell) accidentally.

Also starring Tig Notaro, Matthias Schweighöfer, Raúl Castillo, Samantha Win, Huma Qureshi, Garret Dillahunt, Nora Arnezeder, Theo Rossi, Ana de la Reguera, Omari Hardwick, and Michael Cassidy.

zombie queen
Oh you are so lovely, my zombie queen, and so…slightly blurry. 

Army of the Dead has a lot of zombies in it. Not the most zombies I have ever seen in a film. Shit, did you see World War Z? There were a bunch of zombies in that one shot. But we got types of zombies! Regular zombies, dehydrated zombies, smart/armored zombies, maybe robot zombies, shit we got a Tiger Zombie. Zombies for days, and all breeds. I am not some Zombie purist who thinks the only good type of zombie is one that shambles and is brain dead. It doesn’t really matter to me, because zombies are made up so who cares what anyone does with them?

This is a strange opinion for me to take, given the whole film critic thing, but despite having some plot issues and strange edits, the interesting take of zombies in an interesting scenario won me over in the end, as an entertaining flick.

The film has a lot of strange additions to the plot, and hints about what is to come, and not all of them take hold. For example, the piles of zombies who just need rain to be rejuvenated. Does this film feature rain at all? Hell no. And frankly, the ending is extremely insulting, with the sequel set up, purely based on the time the character has during it, compared to what we already know about zombies earlier in the film. It doesn’t make sense in the context of this film, but it could probably make sense with even more backstory or science behind it, which likely future ones would work on doing.

That doesn’t mean things are okay! But also, some of these things are red herrings and mysterious at the same time. The ending is incredibly clunky, and a lot of that is probably attributed to the fact that Tig Notaro replaced Chris D’Elia entirely after the film had been shot, due to his sexual assault/harassment history. I can’t remember exactly what, but it wasn’t that good. Given the problems with that, a lot of this is better than anticipated.

This world created had a lot of potential, and the moments that I enjoyed far outweighed the slower moments, the ending, and any plot awkwardness.

Bring on more smart zombies, I say.

3 out of 4.

Sensation

I got a feeling, inside my bones. It goes electric when I turn it…on? (Wait, it should be electric before being turned on. To be turn onable one would assume you have electric capabilities already, but what do I know).

Sorry, I am not here to criticize Mr. Timberlake, that was a different review. I am here to talk about different feelings a person might have, or at least, different sensations.

The movie Sensation is made in not-America (this time Canada!)  and it is an independent film that deals with themes of superhero potential and potential virtual worlds. What is real? What is not? It can be the next mind explosion or it can be a drop in the water and no one care for it. Which will it be…which will it be…which will it be…

bench
Ah yes, time to get on roofs, look out on the city, and think about feelings. 

Andrew Cooper (Eugene Simon), no relationship to Anderson Cooper (probably), does have some questions about his genetics. He submitted his DNA to a testing facility, to find out about his medical history and real history, all of that, and apparently things have gone awry since then.

Long story short, he is special. More special than the other special people. He might even have some super powers. He might be able to see that his reality isn’t a reality, and be able to distort things because shit isn’t real anyways. Can he get powers from emotions? We shall see!

But what even is reality? Maybe everything is a lie and this shit is fake.

These mind fucks also feature Emily Wyatt, Jennifer Martin, Marybeth Havens, Alastair G. Cumming, Anil Desai, Kai Francis Lewis, Alex Reid, and Lorraine Tai.

bus
Is this bus real? If it is a real bus, where did the roof go? Hmm?!

If that plot description sounded vague, that is because 98% of this film went in my brain and out the other. It never once made me care about the people in it, or what they were saying. I remember only a few scenes, just days later, and the ending, but it is not like it is an ending I want to remember.

This movie takes ideas from other films, crams a few of them together, and leaves nothing desirable at the same time. I wouldn’t say the ending is predictable in that I knew how it would end. But it was predictable in that I knew it wouldn’t feel satisfying or justify the time spent watching Sensation.

Fuck. I went in a little excited based on the plot line of this one. No one made me know of this films existence, I found out about it on my own from a VOD release site. I didn’t go in wanting it to be bad. But it was just so full of drivel and rehashed other plots that it had no chance of keeping my interest.

You all probably won’t see it, because you probably didn’t know it even existed, so this warning won’t mean much. But definitely do not waste your time.

0 out of 4.