While at this point in time, I might consider 'Maverick' to be my favourite of 2022, I have to admit that 'Bullet Train' gives it some very stiff competition. I may have to do them both back to back by the end of the year just to establish which one I thought was better. Truth be told, on this side of the comparison, 'Bullet Train' was much more an, as I so often put it, "Up My Alley" type of film, made with plenty of style, and substance, and meant for a good time as opposed to something to be taken too seriously.
The comparison I have given this is if Guy Ritchie directed a 'Deadpool' movie, as so much of the style of the film is very Guy Ritchie, and could easily be compared to his films 'Lock, Stock' and 'Snatch'. The 'Deadpool' comparison comes more from its director, David Leitch, who also did 'Deadpool 2', and therefore a LOT of the dialogue is reminiscent of it. Hell, Brad Pitt, himself here is almost a Deadpool-like character with his comedic delivery. Having said all of that, this has also been accused of being a Guy Ritchie ripoff, and it's kind of easy to see why... but the thing is, that style is what I loved so much about it, so it's very hard to be upset about it, personally. In fact, I'd love to see the two collaborate one day.
Former assassin, codename "Ladybug" (Pitt), is assigned to a Kyoto-bound bullet train in order to retrieve a briefcase. Also aboard the train are a variety of characters who add all of the charm to the film; A grieving father named Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji), who seeks revenge after his son was pushed off a roof; a young lady calling herself the "Prince" (Joey King); two assassin brothers codenamed "Lemon" and "Tangerine" (Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, respectively) who are the briefcase keepers, so to speak; a mystery man type known as The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada) another assassin called the "Wolf" (Bad Bunny) and several others that will probably make this paragraph too damn long.
It ends up being one of those "everyone is connected to the situation" type of stories, mainly centring on the death of Kimura's son, and the whole briefcase situation. Otherwise, the film is loaded with hilarious moments, great action, and a cast of characters and cameos who keep popping up all throughout that goes further than anyone I've already mentioned - too many of them are pleasant surprises I don't want to spoil. Above anything else, though, is the fact that this is probably the most fun I've had in the theater this year with a movie. It's almost like it's a tide-over for 'Deadpool 3', as you get all of that proper comedic delivery all of us 'Deadpool' fans are craving so much here.
Once again, it should be said that I do have a particular bias towards movies that are this stylistic and fun. That's all I wanted to experience with this, and I got all of that and then some. For me, it was such a good time, and it makes me want to explore more of David Leitch's material - as well as writer Zak Olkewicz, to whom I must also give credit. He doesn't have much under his belt aside from 'Fear Street Part Two' (which, incidentally, was probably my favourite of the three), but I hope he keeps going. He's got some potential! Anyway, if you want to just have a lot of fun with a movie this year, I feel like I can recommend this one pretty highly.
DC League of Super-Pets
When it comes to DC's material, I tend to find that their animated stuff tends to far outweigh their live-action stuff. The thing is, when we think of DC animation, we probably think of material that's dark, edgy, and a little more adult. In this film's case, it's a DC animated film that leans much more towards a family-friendly and even cutesy story, looking a lot more like 'The Secret Life of Pets' than your typical DC superhero movie. For me, it's actually kind of refreshing, but I'll get to that in a bit.
We open with the well-known destruction of Krypton in a sort of "What If" scenario where, when Kal-El (eventually Clark Kent/Superman) is sent to Earth by his parents to live on, his puppy, Krypto, is sent with him. They grow up together over the years until they are found present day, living in Metropolis, and famous for their respective heroism. Currently, Clark/Superman (John Krasinski) is dating Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde), which in turn makes Krypto (Dwayne Johnson) a little jealous. As a result, Clark visits an animal shelter to find Krypto a friend so he won't be lonely, but to no avail.
Superman and Krypto soon have bigger fish to fry when their nemesis, Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) is seen pulling an orange kryptonite meteor towards Earth that will apparently give him the superpowers he needs to fend off the Justice League; here consisting of Superman, Batman (Keanu Reeves), Wonder Woman (Jameela Jamil), Green Lantern (Dascha Polanco), Cyborg (Daveed Diggs), The Flash (John Early) and Aquaman (Jemaine Clement). He's easily thwarted, but back at the aforementioned animal shelter, a guinea pig named Lulu (Kate McKinnon) has her own diabolical plans.
Having a tractor beam of her very own, Lulu hauls in a small chunk of the orange kryptonite that we soon find out only works on animals. Lulu breaks free with newly gained powers of telekinesis and flight, but the kryptonite also gives the other pets powers of their own. A dog named Ace (Kevin Hart) gains super strength and indestructibility; A potbellied pig named PB (Vanessa Bayer) can now shrink and grow like Ant-Man; a nearsighted turtle named Merton (Natasha Lyonne) gets super speed (of course), and a squirrel named Chip (Diego Luna) can now shoot electricity from his hands like some kind of Sith squirrel. When Lulu uses a bit of green kryptonite to capture Superman and the rest of the Justice League, however, it's up to the league of Super-Pets to save the day.
I have to give the film credit for being able to be a solid DC movie with a mostly family-friendly comedic format. The type of comedy within the film is very reminiscent of something like the 'Lego' Movies, and with good reason, as this is written and directed (mainly) by Jared Stern who wrote for both 'Lego Batman' and 'Lego Ninjago'. So this isn't without a few great unexpected comedic sequences; my personal favourite is the turtle giving out a few solid swear words that have been bleeped out but nevertheless catch you off guard. I further give credit to the film breathing new life into the superhero genre. Even if it is another superhero movie, the formatting of it is what I find refreshing.
This is by far a comedy first, so it's all of the favourite DC superheroes done to one extreme or the other. It also pokes fun at itself and DC quite a bit. But there's also a little bit of good drama spliced into the story here, and it actually manages to pull at the heartstrings a little bit here and there. Dog lovers, or indeed, anyone who has ever owned a pet (especially a dog) will understand why, and I find it evident in more than one scene. As far as animated films go this year, I have to say that this is by far one of the best. It's full of laughs, it's got just the right about of seriousness, and to top it all off, there's some relatability to it. This one comes recommended highly as a Super solid family feature this year.
Jurassic World Dominion
Some of my friends can vouch for this, but my cinematic experience with said friends was bad enough that we each got free movie passes from it. We were constantly distracted by children running around and going "BA-BA-BA" and such, and yeah, it was irritatingly distracting. I therefore didn't quite get the experience I should have, but luckily for me, my hopes weren't exactly high anyway.
In case any of my readers don't remember, I wasn't too nice about 'JW: Fallen Kingdom', and so much of it had to do with the way it ended. Now, just because I sort of have to spoil the ending of that in order to get into this, I'm gonna say that if you care at all, you may as well back out now, because this is big spoiler territory from everything else, as it's a culmination of the 'Jurassic' generations. Once again, Hollywood says "this is the last one", to which I say "yeah right". If there's one thing I've learned about sequels, it's that the "end" is never the "end" if there's box office money to be had.
Anyway, 'Fallen Kingdom' ends with young Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon); a clone (a whole other story) releasing a whole whack of imprisoned dinosaurs into the world because "they're alive". One of the dumbest movie endings in my humble opinion. But (and I even say this in my review), I knew pretty quickly that the road was paved for a new title soon enough. The resulting film is 'JW: Dominion', and I have to admit that I may have liked it a touch better than 'Fallen Kingdom'... a bit! This is mostly because my expectations were low, even if Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) make a comeback to feed my fandom. I mean, that's what got me into my seat, so call me a "sucker".
This one takes place about four years after the last one, and as we all know at this point, dinosaurs are living among the human race. As one probably expects, it's not exactly 'The Flintstones', but certain creative (if far-fetched, but hey, this is a 'Jurassic' film) ideas are put into place, but it's mentioned really quickly that the human race isn't exactly surviving. So once again, way to go Maisie. In the meantime, Biosyn Genetics has been granted permission to create a dino sanctuary in Italy's Dolomite Mountains. There, they continue a bunch of their complicated research. Biosyn also wants to get their hands on Maisie for research purposes.
In the meantime, Maisie lives with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who still works with the Dinosaur Protection Group, and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who now works as a dinosaur wrangler, relocating stray dinosaurs. Long story short, Maisie is eventually located and kidnapped, along with the asexually produced Beta - baby to everyone's favourite raptor, Blue. As the trailer shows, Owen promises to get her back for Blue. As for Sattler and Grant, well, Sattler researches swarms of gigantic locusts who are eating crops that Biosyn isn't planting and Grant is there to help. And Malcolm? Well, he works for Biosyn, but soon finds out some hard truths about their experiments, causing him to want to expose CEO, Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) - the guy from the first film who gets Dennis Nedry to collect the samples.
For yours truly, there was enough fun to this that included some of our old favourite dinosaurs. The T-Rex comes along for another wrestling match against a something and a whatsit, we have Blue to fulfill the raptor aspect, and even one of my old favourites, the Dilophosaurus makes a comeback in a very fitting way. My praise for the film lies in bringing back certain aspects and characters, but my biggest criticism is, not even in the story-telling, but wondering what the hell all these dinosaurs are supposed to be. I haven't heard of more than probably half of the dinos in this, so not every scene was exciting so much as me going "huh?" Like Macolm says in the trailer "why do they always need to go bigger?" (seriously, every 'Jurassic' movie is guilty of it, except maybe 'Lost World', where the T-rex is still the big baddie).
I think this is fine for those who are into the whole 'Jurassic' thing. These have pretty well become another 'Fast' franchise that has audiences going in for a fun time rather than some kind of Oscar-seeker of a flick. I can't say I blame them. Every one of these films, for me, has something fun going on in it. But half the fun of these is pointing out how ridiculous things can get. I mean (in the trailer), why is that one guy casually riding a scooter when a T-Rex just snatches him off of it? We have to take these with a grain of salt, and I think my acceptance of that allowed me to enjoy this just a touch more than the last one. BUT... it's still pretty bad.
Top Gun: Maverick
Regardless of how you feel about Tom Cruise, you've got to give it up for his dedication to his craft. Between the 'Mission: Impossible' franchise and movies like this, he keeps learning new things and pushing the envelope. I further learned that aside from Cruise doing his own flying stunts in this, he also got his fellow cast members trained in flying, and 100% of the flying in this movie is real! Incredible stuff, considering some of the maneuvers you see these pilots pull off. And all of this on an IMAX screen? *chef's kiss*.
Now, concerning the plot of this one, you might not want to continue reading if you care about spoilers for the original film. A lot of this film's plot hinges on spoiler territory, but seeing as the original IS about 36 years old, I'd imagine most people interested already know about these spoilers as though I might as well be trying to cover Darth Vader being Luke's father. Anyway, we begin over 30 years after the events of 'Top Gun', and we see Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise) has gotten into being a test pilot for the US Navy. His current project is to get the hypersonic "Darkstar" scramjet to Mach 10.
Rear Admiral Chester "Hammer" Cain (Ed Harris), however, plans on shutting the project down to redirect funds to drone programs. Of course, Maverick goes ahead and makes the attempt anyway, which gets him into a spot of trouble. Luckily, for Maverick, he still has Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer) in his corner, as he has since become Commander of the US Pacific Fleet and can pull some strings rather than see him grounded. This results in Maverick being sent back to Top Gun to teach a whole new crew of the best of the best to fly some F-18s into a dangerous mission to bomb a uranium enrichment facility that the Pentagon deems a threat to the US.
Among the crew of top pilots are the cocky Jake 'Hangman' Seresin (Glen Powell), token female pilot, Natasha 'Phoenix' Trace (Monica Barbaro), Javy 'Coyote' Machado (Greg Tarzan Davis), the somewhat geeky Robert 'Bob' Floyd (Lewis Pullman), Reuben 'Payback' Fitch (Jay Ellis), Mickey 'Fanboy' Garcia (Danny Ramirez) and last but not least, Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), who happens to be the son of Maverick's former best friend and RIO, Nick "Goose" Bradshaw. Here's where the major spoiler comes into play, as Goose dies in the original while flying with Maverick. This, and more that one might not expect, causes Rooster and Maverick to have a very rocky relationship.
In the meantime, Maverick also reunites with the famous Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly); an Admiral's daughter who Maverick and Goose once did a high-speed pass over, as mentioned a couple of times in the original film. But while this is going on, this doesn't place any sort of love story front and center as the original pretty much did. Yes, I know it's about more than that, but one can't really deny that a good chunk of that movie IS a love story. For the most part, in this chapter, we see a LOT more of what we came to see - a lot of jet-flying action. Even if it's about 90% training for the mission, it's all not only a fun thrill ride we take with these pilots, but it's even somewhat educational. Sound boring? Well, trust me, it's far from it.
If I have any sot of criticism about this one, it's that we see a whole lot of similarities between this and the original within the storyline. There's even the equivalent of the famous shirts-off volleyball scene - but this time, it's a football, and it has the purpose of team building behind it. Little tweaks like that make me appreciate it so much more. It's a very bold statement, but I think I can quite honestly stand by it; I liked this MORE than I liked the original. It also appears that I'm not exactly alone on that. But if you really wanna have a good time in the theater right now - not just a movie, but an experience - then definitely go check this out in whatever maximized format you can. I had a GREAT time with this one!
As with a bunch of Liam Neeson's films at this point, I'm finding myself slowly tapping out of it all with Neeson fatigue. But at the very least, I can give this film the fact that he's not chasing after his kidnapped whoever. So it's not entirely typical. But for some reason, at least for me, there's a part of me that just doesn't feel like any more of it - at least to give the man a break. I've seen him plenty of times before this, acting perfectly well, and know he has more to offer than just being an action hero.
Needless to say, this probably won't be a very long review. I just don't have anything to really say about it. His action flicks feel kind of just "there" now, and it feels like a waste of his skills. Anyway, here, Neeson plays Alex Lewis; a contract killer suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's. Taking his orders from Davana Sealman (Monica Bellucci), he eventually finds himself tasked to kill off an innocent barely teenage girl named Beatriz (Mia Sanchez); a task he refuses to carry through. In the meantime, Beatriz has been cared for by Special Agent Vincent Serra (Guy Pearce) of the FBI's Child Exploitation Task Force, having rescued her from a sex trafficking job her father forced her into.
Sadly, the story gets going when the hit is actually carried out by a heartless hitman named Mauricio (Lee Boardman), sent by Sealman, who will be the subject of Liam Neeson's revenge, today. From there, it's basically Neeson taking the wheel of action while Guy Pearce takes the wheel of detective, trying to piece together everything leading up to Beatriz's death... and yes, odds are I could quite well be a little "off" in my description because, cards on the table, I wasn't paying very close attention to this whole thing. It's not that it's a terrible movie, but it's not exactly riveting. It just feels very standard and belongs on a long list of movies that might have done better in the early 90s.
I may not be tired and worn out by Marvel flicks like a lot of people are nowadays, but Neeson action movies are just wearing thin on me. And I have absolutely nothing against him as an actor because, again, I know he can do very well. I think I've said similar things on my last couple of reviews of his films, but sometimes it's just unfortunately what there is to watch that week. I must apologize for delivering something so half-assed, but from the look of it, no one else really gave it much attention either. But while it remains such a standard and basic Neeson action flick, one thing remains - what about the whole Alzheimer's thing?
It IS somewhat intriguing to watch Liam Neeson play the same basic action man he has for some time now and finally see something where HE is fallible. However, the execution of it all didn't exactly pull me in with intrigue so much as feel like the Alzheimer's situation is just trying to be a more serious and humanistic version of the memory loss situation we've seen in other famous action flicks - the 'Bourne' movies probably being the stand-out title (although granted, a very different take). Anyway, unfortunately, this is one review I just have very little to say about. What can I say? It's a Liam Neeson action movie, you know how it's all gonna go down, and it's only entertaining on a lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing better to do.
I love a movie like this because, in recommending it, the target audience is easy to figure out; fans of the featured actor. While my personal favourite is still probably 'My Name is Bruce' (featuring Bruce Campbell as himself), I have to say that this is a very close second. This one is for any one of us who has thrived on Nicolas Cage's extreme over-acting abilities over the years. It may not quite be Cage at his "Cage-iest", but it definitely satisfies the Cage-craving one will be looking for.
Nicolas Cage (as himself) is living a close-to-has-been life in Hollywood, being passed over for several roles, and constantly arguing with his alter-ego "Nicky" (who is the version of Cage we really wanna see). Nicky is essentially the younger side of him that gave him success, and torments him about being washed up. If that's not enough, his family life is also suffering due to years of emotional neglect, being constantly away from his now ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and, more importantly, daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen). This all leads to Cage planning on retirement, once and for all, in order to get his life together.
Cage's agent, Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris) offers him a deal of $1 million to head to Majorca in the Balearic Islands near Spain to be the guest of honour a billionaire Javi Gutierrez's (Pedro Pascal) birthday. The two eventually bond, especially over a shared love of movies, but soon Cage learns that he may be in over his head when CIA agents Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz) enter the scene, claiming that Javi is a wanted arms dealer, and responsible for the kidnapping of an anti-crime politician's daughter, Maria (Katrin Vankova).
Reluctantly, Cage decides to help the CIA despite his newfound friendship. In the meantime, however, he can't help but take Javi's ideas for a collaborative movie script into consideration. So it ends up being a bit of a rock-and-a-hard-place situation for Mr. Cage. As one would expect, it delivers just fine on Nick Cage being the Nick Cage we've come to love, and it's really cool to see him able to make fun of himself in various aspects of his life - like the idea of him being a film buff trying to share obscure movies like 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' with his teenage daughter. It's a fantastic feat of cinematic production for its time, but it's very clear that not everyone is gonna appreciate something like it these days.
There's really not much more to say about it. I'd break it down simply to recommending it to fans of Nicolas Cage, because that's the clear target audience. The film takes place in a "real-life" scenario, but it doesn't shy away from the over-the-top comedic action that we've come to love Nick Cage for these days. Again, there's plenty of his eccentricity to satisfy the sweet-tooth, and as a loose fan (I don't necessarily like him in everything I've seen him in, but love his extreme acting) I can honestly say that I had a lot of fun with it. I might further highly recommend seeing it with people who will appreciate the "Caginess" of it all.
Just to add a whole bunch more confusion as to where things in Marvel are taking place, Sony brings in 'Morbius' while a future 'Blade' movie is slated for the MCU at some point in the near future. We don't particularly know what will happen with Sony's Spider-Man movies either, as Andrew Garfield has quite a lot of fans backing him up for another Sony movie. Time will tell, but before it all comes together, here's the next chapter in Marvel's Multiverse Movie Multitude.
We meet young Michael Morbius (Charlie Shotwell) at the age of 10, where he bonds with his surrogate brother, Lucien (Joseph Esson). The pair share a blood disease in common and reside at a hospital in Greece. After an incident involving Lucien and his medical equipment, it's discovered that Michael is highly intelligent - a regular MacGyver if you will. As a result, Michael and Milo's (by the way, Michael calls Lucien "Milo" in this) adoptive father and hospital director, Nicholas (Jared Harris), makes arrangements for Michael to attend medical school in New York City.
After 25 years, Michael (Jared Leto) is up for a Nobel Prize for his work on synthetic blood, which he publicly declines. In the hopes of splicing bat genes with his own, he hopes to cure his blood disease, and has therefore captured a collection of bats to experiment on, as discovered by his colleague, Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona). His experimentation, however, is illegal, but after confessing his plans to both Nicholas and Milo (Matt Smith), he receives funding to carry out his experiment on international waters.
The experiment, as we can all tell by trailers and common sense, transforms Michael into a vampire with seemingly uncontrollable bloodlust. Once his hunger is satisfied, he pretty much goes back to normal. The conclusion is that the cure works, and even enhances his abilities, gaining him things like echolocation, super strength and agility, and even being treated as a fellow bat by his bat buddies. The unfortunate drawback, however, is this thirst problem. His synthetic blood can only feed him for so long. But when Milo is refused help due to the cures unfortunate side effects, Milo takes matters into his own hands, giving us another Marvel non-MCU anti-hero in the form of Morbius, the living vampire.
This one clearly didn't do so hot with the critics, and a lot of that has to do with some of this origin story stuff being played out - especially when it's hard to figure out just who was asking for a 'Morbius' movie, as opposed to just having him come in as a villain somewhere in a future 'Spidey' or 'Blade' movie. Nevertheless, perhaps the most intriguing aspects of this movie, to no one's surprise, are the mid-credit sequences which, without saying too much, tie in with the events of the MCU's 'No Way Home'. It paves the way for some future stuff, but it's hard to say exactly what.
All in all, I came out of this with similar feelings that I had with the two 'Venom' movies. These films are by no means spectacular, but I'll be damned if I don't have fun with them. I wasn't on the lookout for this, but I can't deny it grabbed my attention, being somewhat familiar with the Marvel villain. I'm glad that I saw it, and didn't come out of it regretting a thing. There are a few rough spots here and there, and I can see where critics are coming from. But if you can view this with the proper lens, I think you can enjoy it for what it is. One thing's for sure - Leto was much better here than he ever was as the Joker (and I stand by that).
The Lost City
This one seems to have floated a little under the radar, as the titles surrounding its release date have seemingly had more pull. 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' was released the same week, and it's difficult to stand out when the following weeks would release 'Morbius' and 'Sonic 2'. But I digress. I'm actually kind of happy to say that I found this to be a bit of a hidden gem. Nowhere near perfect, but really quite fun, nonetheless.
A reclusive romance novelist named Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) writes her stories based on adventure, and they feature a recurring character named Dash McMahon whose basis is cover model Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum). During a book tour, we see the relationship between the two as people seem far more interested in the sexy model than the struggling author. Though off to a rough start, Sage is soon met by Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), who, despite not enjoying her books, realizes that Loretta has done real, historical research in her writing.
As a result, Fairfax believes that he's stumbled on a lost city in the Atlantic in which a priceless relic called the "Crown of Fire" might be. But when Loretta disagrees to help Fairfax find this crown, she ends up kidnapped and hauled off to the island. When Alan witnesses this, he enlists the help of a former Navy SEAL named Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt). Without spoiling too much, things don't go all too well on this rescue mission, and soon the inexperienced Alan and Loretta find themselves on the run in the jungles of some unknown island.
A fun side to the movie includes Loretta's publisher, Beth Hatten (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), who goes on her own rescue mission, all the while having a back-and-forth with Oscar (Oscar Nuñez); a sort of random comic relief character who takes her to the island. It's a good chunk that doesn't really need to be there, but it's sort of parallel to Matthew McConaughey popping up to deliver a TIVO in 'Tropic Thunder'. It's there for a good, solid chuckle, and it's effective, but it's not really necessary. I admit to always being a fan of stuff like that, provided they have fun with it, which they did.
But when all said and done, the final question is whether or not the film is worth it. After all, there's quite honestly plenty here that we've seen done before, the ending is highly predictable, and not much comes as a surprise while you're watching it. The fun factor, however, is what drives this film. Bullock and Tatum actually play quite well off each other, but Tatum still delivers that humour the dudes can love just as much as the women, and he's thankfully not there to just be eye candy (as the film otherwise seems to suggest in its plot).
On top of that, there's really no performance here that was disappointing. Radcliffe owned his role as a sort of loser of a villain when we know him so well as Harry Potter; Bullock gives a good range in her performance; Pitt seems to really be accepting of his late roles of a "lesser" character (like Vanisher in 'Deadpool 2' for about 2 seconds), and they all provide the aforementioned "fun factor" to the film. It's another case of an old idea with a freshly visualized execution. It's not something one must-see in theaters, but I do still recommend checking it out whenever you get the chance.
Putting my cards on the table right away, DC has completely proved me wrong, and not for the first time. When the trailer first came out for this, my thoughts generally leaned towards it being another eventual failure because it felt too soon after "Batfleck" - especially with the release of the Snyder Cut just last year. It looked like "just another Batman movie", and I figured people weren't gonna care as much as they did with the 'Dark Knight' series.
On top of everything else, things in the DC Extended Universe feel ultimately confusing at this point. But with all that aside, this does act as a VERY good 'Batman' movie. I'm altogether kind of blown away with how thoroughly good this was in as much as it connected with various dark Bat Titles - not the least of which is an old favourite - 'The Long Halloween' (which I really should read through again). It also draws from further familiars like 'Year One' and 'Ego', and finally plays with Batman's detective side rather than his superhero/action side. Some prefer that action side, sure, but even with that in mind, this is something long overdue!
The film opens on Halloween night in Gotham City, where mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones) is killed by a mystery man who calls himself "The Riddler" (???) in various messages (both video and written) left for Gotham's detectives and The Batman (Robert Pattinson), himself. Batman has been a vigilante at this point for about two years, working alongside Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). Up until this point, it has mostly been on petty thug crimes, and there's a wonderful opening to this where we see how it all works; how Batman uses fear as a tool against the lawbreakers of the crime-ridden city.
As Batman continues his detective work with some help from his understandably concerned butler, Alfred (Andy Serkis), it sets him on a path in which he meets the likes of the Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), Selina Kyle - better known as Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) and at the top of everything, notorious mob boss, Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). The whole situation ends up being perhaps the most taxing event of his career so far, but little does he know that this Riddler character isn't exactly the only recent threat to the city of Gotham.
Now, when it comes to DC movies and my particular tastes, it can get a bit confusing. The DCEU is pretty dark, there's no question. But, much like with Marvel, I think some of it should be dark, but some of it light. But Batman has this limit for me. Personally speaking, I'm one of those guys who doesn't think Batman should be killing people (at least that we see on screen), and I don't think "Dark Batman" means "He should get away with killing". To some, it works, but for me, I just always knew there was a good way to do it without it needing to be on certain levels. I've always said they should look to the 'Arkham' games and stuff like that, and well... here we basically are!
One caption on a poster for this says "the Batman movie we've been waiting for!", and I think for a lot of fans like myself, that rings absolutely true. This really does remind me a lot of the 'Arkham' games when it comes to things like the film's atmosphere, and even Batman himself. Pattinson as Batman was something I was always convinced could work, but I have to admit that to some degree, he actually impressed. He will undoubtedly fall into the age-old debate of "who is the best Batman?" (Kevin Conroy). He takes a different, more intensely quiet and mysterious approach to the role, and it works quite well. The guy moves slowly at all times like a Jason Voorhees, but when he fights, he fights with the reflexes of a cat... bat.... well, you get the picture.
This one comes from Matt Reeves as well, which is almost immediately a good sign that the film is in good hands. This is the guy who gave us the last two titles of the new 'Planet of the Apes' trilogy, and 'Cloverfield', which may not be for everyone, but it's still one of the best concepts for a found footage film I've ever seen. According to sources, there are two sequels planned for this as well, and I really look forward to seeing where it can go. Just thinking of things like new takes on various villains in this universe - especially Scarecrow for yours truly has me super excited. So if you have the means to do so at this point in time, I highly recommend this as a big-screen venture. But get comfy, 'cause it's like, 3 hours long.
As far as 2022 titles are going so far, I can pretty much guarantee that this is one I'll forget that I even saw by the end of the year. I'm not saying it's god awful or anything, but it's... a Liam Neeson movie. Ever since 'Taken', they all sort of seem to blend together (at least in my head). The man has become his own cliche so much that people joke about "going full Liam Neeson" if anyone bothered their daughter.
Taking that lightly, however, I went into this expecting exactly what I got (more or less). It's just a formula, and it's bothersome to know how incredibly good an actor Neeson is when he's so typecast like this. His best role in the last decade, for myself, was probably his cameo in 'Ted 2' just because of it. Anyway, while I'm beating this into the ground, it would appear quite clear that Neeson fans are pretty hardcore when it comes down to it. The 'Rotten Tomato' average for this (currently) is about 45%. And the only reason that's so "high" is that the audience was generous enough to give it a solid 81%.
So what's Liam up to this time? Well, his name is Travis Block. He's a war vet, and he works for the FBI under director, Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn). His role is to bring in agents who have found themselves in sticky situations, and he's really quite good at it. However, he really wishes to retire in order to spend more time with his family; namely his daughter, Amanda (Claire van der Boom) and granddaughter, Natalie (Gabriella Sengos). Robinson sends him on one last mission; to collect Dusty Crane (Taylor John Smith). However, Crane has some really revealing information about what the Feds are doing behind everyone's back.
Caught up in the middle of everything is journalist, Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who is covering a story on the death of female activist, Sofia Flores (Mel Jarnson). She is first contacted about the murder by Crane, who claims he has information about it. It's not long before Mira and Block both find themselves in a sort of rabbit hole in which the feds are running a project that may or may not involve the killing of a whole whack of innocent civilians, and it may be up to them to put a stop to it. It's... interesting to say the least.
Really and truly, there isn't much to this movie. It's a whole bunch of action-thriller cliches rolled into a quick buck of a movie. It's the perfect example of what I like to call a "paycheck movie". Typically, this entails a great actor going with a not-so-great script because, hell, this is their job. Pretty much any actor you can think of has a few of these, and Liam Neeson is no exception. In fairness, it seems like he's pretty happy where he is with everything, and enjoys living out this repetitive role. Going back to his cameo in 'Ted 2', not taking himself too seriously is pretty evident.
As far as the film goes, it's just forgettable for yours truly. I really would like to see Liam flex his acting muscles more than he does with these roles because I know he can do well. Otherwise, he just keeps giving us the same thing over and over again, and nothing is ever a surprise anymore. That said, maybe I'm just not there with his adoring fans who can't get enough of this. This is one I lean more on with the critics and would suggest that it's just not that great - even as a mindless action movie. This one's more for the hardcore Neeson fans than anyone else, because it's just more of the same. And in case you were wondering at all, yes, spoiler alert, his family does find themselves in danger... are you at all surprised?
Over the years, Roland Emmerich has often been seen by many to be a sort of "other Michael Bay". In order to enjoy his works, you have to take them with a grain of salt, throw reality out the window, and whatever you do, don't question a damn thing. It's pure fantasy with the box office in mind, and you're there for a theatrical thrill ride. So (a lot like with Bay), I will often come out of an Emmerich movie saying something like "that was stupid, but it was fun".
Somehow or another though, I left this with the idea that I had just been drastically insulted, but not sure if I was supposed to feel that way. I won't spoil anything but the "big reveal" to this movie is... REALLY out there - so much so that I couldn't even call it fun. The film honestly almost felt like a message to take conspiracy theorists seriously, and in this day and age, that's not a great message to try to convey. But again, I'm not sure if this was supposed to happen. What if Emmerich was secretly saying "see how dumb this is?" But then, if he was, he just made some money rather underhandedly.
The film opens during a Space Shuttle mission to repair a satellite. Bantering back and forth are astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and Jocinda Fowler (Halle Berry), and they are interrupted by a weird, black, swarming mass that ends up killing one of their crewmates. After a long investigation, Harper is ultimately fired with his unbelievable explanation, and NASA blames the fate of the crewmember on human error. As for Fowler, she was incapacitated during the swarm attack, so doesn't have much of a frame of reference for anything.
Ten years later, we meet our conspiracy theorist, K.C. Houseman (John Bradley). His theories kind of have to be seen to be believed, so I won't reveal them here. But his theories ultimately lead him to stealing an opportunity to use a research telescope that isn't well guarded at all. Here, he notices that the Moon's orbit is off course, and it seems to be heading towards Earth. Eventually, he goes public with it, after a down-on-his-luck Harper refuses to listen to his ramblings. But then, NASA discovers this abnormality on their own, and it all leads to "let's send a crew up to the Moon to stop it from crashing into Earth as well as find out what this weird swarm is all about".
There's not a whole hell of a lot more to it without spoilers, but once things really get going, the film just gets weirder, and weirder, and weirder. It's another one that's trying to combine a bunch of different movies, but to no real avail. In fact, it's been dubbed by a few to be the most recent "so bad, it's good" movie because it's just THAT crazy. There's so much in here that feels like it was written by a teenager, and though my plot description may seem weak, that really IS basically all there is to it.
Even though there's plenty of stuff that looks pretty cool here, it's not nearly enough to save anything. I would highly recommend saving the theatrical viewing and just waiting for home release on this one, even if you happen to be an Emmerich fan. For yours truly, this is probably his weakest movie. I didn't leave this one saying it was "dumb fun", it was just plain "dumb", and it's hard for me to give it the benefit of the doubt. This goes beyond his average disaster flick, and gets almost too bizarre, even for him. This is one I might suggest watching with a room full of friends though, as you rip on everything wrong with it - especially if you have some friends who know a thing or two about the Moon!
At this point, after yet another Covid lockdown, it appears that theaters are reopening again. So (knock on wood) I'll have access to movies we actually give a damn about, instead of reviewing titles like these, that probably have whoever is reading this asking "what in the hell is this?" There isn't even a summary of the film on its Wiki page (which I often use for help, lest I forget certain details)... I'll uh, do my best.
The film opens with the crash-landing of a military cargo plane, during World War II. The crash happens behind enemy lines, within the Black Forest of Germany. The plane carried top secret material, and a team of skilled soldiers are sent by a Maj. Johnson (Mickey Rourke) to retrieve it. Led by Sergeant Brewer (Robert Knepper) and Walsh (Jackson Rathbone), the team search the forest until they discover the bodies of hanged Nazi soldiers among others, all bearing strange markings that turn out to be ancient magical symbols.
Before the team knows it, all sorts of strange things start happening to them. Their compasses fail, and they get to questioning their own sanity, as they seem trapped by some kind of strong, supernatural entity. Knowing that Nazis are into the supernatural for uses of power, the team must dig deep, and discover the twisted truth that lies behind whatever it is that seems to be attacking them. So, a lot of this is another horror flick based on Nazi experimentation, of which there are FAR better titles to choose from. But, although it takes a weird direction, i can at least give it credit for a touch of originality.
A lot of this dark magic turns out to be witchcraft, and I personally find it to be an original take on the World War II horror genre - which is around, but there's not a whole whack of them. There is something about soldiers facing off against the supernatural that speaks to the haunted mindset some real-world WWII soldiers probably had. A lot of it can be taken metaphorically, be it the soldiers "battling their inner demons", the soldiers "venturing into the very frightening unknown" or hey, sometimes the soldier has to just "fight a monster", either representative of the entire Nazi regime, or Hitler, himself.
Having said all that, it's sort of difficult to place this in any of those particular categories. Sometimes a movie is just... being a B movie. So, it's a pretty good example of a movie made for fun, and there's nothing wrong with that. This parallels things like 'Piranha 3D' or 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter'. Its not too bad if you're just looking for a cheap thrill. But I will suggest to look elsewhere if you're looking for real substance. It's kinda fun, but it's not what I'd call "worthy of big-screen attention".
The Matrix: Resurrections
When it comes to the 'Matrix' series, I must confess to be one of the many audience members who fell into a state of confusion by the end of it all. This is a series I didn't get as attached to as my peers, other than the first film, released in 1999, which still stands alone as a GREAT film. I also enjoyed 'The Animatrix' for its overall style and imagination, but otherwise, there have been several other fantasy/sci-fi series I hold far above this one.
Having said that, going into this, I was indifferent. My overall opinion upon seeing the trailer was that of feeling, yet again, "too little too late", but mixed with "altogether unnecessary". And I should probably be clear that I'm altogether unclear on a lot of what happened throughout the film, although I think I have the general idea. The thing is, I haven't watched ANY of the 'Matrix' movies in well over a decade, so there's a lot that I've forgotten. One of these days, I may revisit all of this with some sort of special, but for now, I have to go by my thoughts as a born-again-noob.
Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) has created a series of three 'Matrix' video games that he bases on things like visions and dreams; leftovers from when he was Neo. Part of this includes a woman he runs into at a local coffee shop named Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), whom he bases his game character of Trinity on. He sees a therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) who prescribes him blue pills, but eventually stops taking them, making these visions start to get a bit out of hand.
Meanwhile, the confusion starts when a girl named Bugs (Jessica Henwick) discovers a "modal" (pronounced "mode-all") that's running an old code in a loops, reenacting the time Trinity found Neo in the first movie. A modal, by the way, is a "programming sandbox" created to develop characters; one of these is a new Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and, I guess in some ways, long story short, the original story is played out again with a few alterations. Forgive me for how undetailed the description of the film is, but once again, I'm not entirely sure I got it.
For me, this was just another 'Matrix' addition that doesn't really need to be there, as the first 'Matrix' is still a great stand-alone film, and I stand by that. That's not to say that the others are just trash, in my opinion. I think it's just another case of them not really being for me... or I'm just too damn slow to pick up on what they're putting down, but that's fine. This is one I know for a fact I'm not alone on. With all that said, however, I can still see 'Matrix' fans really liking this. I will give it credit for sticking with style, and it's definitely another case of the film's eye candy overshadowing... basically everything else.
I still might consider this the weakest of the bunch, however. It's honestly a coin-flip between this a 'Revolutions', but the biggest things about this include the film coming into an era where I feel like we're kind of over 'The Matrix'. Keanu is John Wick now, not so much Neo, and his performance (which I might blame on the direction) here is kind of brutal. It's almost more like he embraced his stereotype of being his classic character Ted, but stiffer. Nothing against the man. It's just that I'd much sooner see him do a 'John Wick 4' than a 'Matrix 4'. But that's just me and my opinion. I think others could still like this more than I do; but I will suggest one should go in with low expectations. Hopefully it plays on your nostalgia more than it did mine.
Let me just start this one off by saying that I went into this relatively clueless as to what was what when it came to the whole 'Dune' thing. I was introduced to 'Dune' completely backwards by playing the strategy game for my PC before even realizing that it was once a movie (extremely loosely) based on an original book of the same name. I did eventually try the David Lynch movie, but I never did make it through, and it never quite made it onto my "cult" radar. This is just me, but I thought it was about as dry as the desert it took place in. So when this came around, my reaction to the trailer was less than enthusiastic.
However, there were a few things about the trailer that grasped my curiosity. First and foremost, the scope of things made it look like the next epic waiting to happen. Then there were things like the cast, taking from just about anything else that exists on an epic scale; actors from Marvel, DC, 'Star Wars', and all lead by a young Oscar bait actor. As uninterested as I may have felt, there were those few things that managed to stroke my curiosity enough to check it out. All in all, I would say things went pretty much as I predicted. This is a good blend of things, but it does take a little while to get going.
Taking place 22,000 years into the future, the main setting of the film is planet Arrakis; a desert planet which plays host to the one and only source of "spice" in the universe. Spice makes interstellar travel possible, and boosts human vitality, so it's pretty valuable stuff. Arrakis is currently ruled by House Harkonnen; the "bad guys", and Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) of House Atreides; the "good guys", to attempt to replace the Harkonnen with the Atreides as the planet's head rulers. While apprehensive, Leto does see political advantages in controlling the spice planet, but there may be something more sinister to this strategy than meets the eye.
Duke Leto's concubine, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is part of a sisterhood that bears uncanny abilities called the Bene Gesserit who tell her to have a daughter, who would one say become a very big deal. She has a son instead, however, named Paul (Timothée Chalamet), who is nevertheless trained by Leto's aides, Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa), Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson) in different skills and disciplines. Paul ends up having some pretty haunting visions of the future, usually consisting of a mysterious girl with bright blue eyes we eventually know as Chani (Zendaya) and taking place on Arrakis where all sorts of unfortunate violence is ready to happen (at least according to his visions).
A lot of it ends up being about Paul being forced into a destiny that will involve him ultimately having to face his fears despite the visions he has. I also very much see it as a cautionary tale about war over supply and demand; generally comparing the spice to, quite simply, oil. However, the film explores other everyday avenues as well, and gives us a good visual of how things could get. It also touches on politics, religion, technology, and the human condition. While this still isn't completely up my alley, largely due to its pacing and somewhat blasé atmosphere (this is just personal), I have to give it credit for being what could be a pretty realistic future for humankind (especially considering how far into the future it takes place). Everything it shows us could be seen as metaphorical for our everyday here on present-day Earth.
This is yet another case of a film ultimately gaining my respect, and it certainly has the potential to grown on my through several viewings. But with that said, I'm not sure that this one was entirely for me. It's a very hard one to rate, because for as uninterested as I could get through it, I can't help but credit it for not only what I already have, but also being what appears to be a relatively faithful adaptation (again, I have no idea), coming out in two parts. And it does do a pretty great job of leaving us on that cliffhanger by the end. I'm certainly going to give this one another chance sometime down the line though, because there's that part of me that wants to be more interested than I am - it's almost like it's just missing a little something, but I can't place exactly what that something is.
No Time to Die
The 'Bond' films are another really strange property for yours truly. If I could use one word to describe it, it might be "disconnect". I came into things during the Brosnan era with 'Goldeneye', but didn't see all of his films. Add to that the fact that I never saw anything prior, and the Craig era is the only era I ever paid any real attention to. Craig is, therefore, my Bond, and retiring from here on out. Between 'Casino Royale' to here, I have seen them all in theaters, and they've all been a real treat (except maybe 'Quantum of Solace'). This one was no exception.
The film opens in the past where we meet a young Madeleine Swann (Coline Defaud), who we'll remember from 'Spectre', and her mother (Mathilde Bourbin). A mysterious man in a mask enters, who is after Madeleine's father, Mr. White (portrayed by Jesper Christensen in previous Craig films). White is gone, however, so he sets his sights on his family to hurt him even worse. In the process, Madeleine's life is spared, but she tragically loses her mother. We then fast-forward to present day where we see Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) with Bond (Daniel Craig), after the capture of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) as they head for Matera where Bond will be able to say his final farewells to Vesper (previously played by Eva Green).
Bond is suddenly ambushed by Spectre assassins, which leads Bond to believe that he's been double-crossed by Madeleine. They escape together, but he puts her on a train and parts ways with her, and the credits begin with Billie Eilish's 'No Time to Die' theme. Personally, not my favourite, and as far as the Craig films are concerned, 'Skyfall' is very hard to top. But graphically, it looked pretty amazing. This might be a good time to mention that, though you don't necessarily need to, it might be good to brush up on some of the history of 'Bond' before moving forward. I've already referenced a few things from previous films, but just in case I miss something, I might suggest taking a look a this.
Anyway, five years pass, and we find MI6 scientist, Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik) kidnapped from his lab. He had developed a nanobot bioweapon able to infect upon touch, coded to an individual's DNA. The weapon is known as Project Heracles, and it was approved by M (Ralph Fiennes). Bond is contacted by Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and his acquaintance, Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen) in their attempt to locate and retrieve Obruchev. At first he declines, but he soon realizes that a lady named Nomi (Lashana Lynch) has since taken his place as "007" since his retirement. He informs Bond about Haracles, kicking Bond into action, and that's about al of the plot I'm gonna roll out here.
Being that this is the last of the Craig films, there's actually quite a bit that attaches itself to his previous films. I may even recommend a bit of a marathon before checking this one out, just to keep up to date. Truth be told, there were a few moments here and there when I had to try to remember who some of these characters were. It's not essential that you see the previous films beforehand, but I really think it would help a lot. There's four to go through, and 'Quantum' is actually pretty short, so it's not that bad of an undertaking. Also bear in mind that I'm not what one would call a 'Bond' fan. I don't have that attachment so many others do, so it's very likely that I miss a lot of the obvious to fans.
When all said and done, this is just like any other 'Bond' movie I end up seeing. Although it's not necessarily meant for me and my mindset, I can still see 'Bond' fans really liking this. I also had to admire the way the film ended, in that it really does seem to come to a close. The only real questions on my mind at this point though are "Who will be the next James Bond?" and "Will I like them better than I liked Daniel Craig?" Time will tell, but until then, I would claim this as a property that has my utmost respect, even though it's not altogether up my alley. I still have a fun time watching these movies though, and I hope they keep coming with or without Craig, just because if nothing else, they are fun action adventure flicks made for the big screen experience.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Cards on the table, back when a lot of my peers were so eager to see Venom show up in a Raimi movie, I thought that was pushing things. I knew and enjoyed the character from various comic book reads, the '94 animated series (which, in my opinion, STILL does the best Venom story overall), and the PS1 'Spider-Man' game that no one seems to remember for some reason. Familiarity was there, but knowing Spidey's rouges gallery, there was a LOT to go through. So for me, Venom was cool, but I didn't NEED to see him in a movie as a one-off villain. Bottom line, turn to the '94 cartoon for the best version (aside from comics).
Anyway, when it came to the 2018 film, I rolled with it and accepted it for the fun, albeit dark comedy that it was. I even reviewed it for my 2018 Halloween Special, because it totally had that Halloween vibe to it - almost horrific, but silly enough not to be. I gave a a 3/5, considered it a guilty pleasure and moved on, wondering what the future would hold with that stinger involving Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) and his clown hair. The answer came in a couple of forms - first and foremost being this continuing story that I enjoyed just about as much as the original. However, due to a stinger scene that I will not spoil here, more questions were answered as to even further films in this series. As a result, indeed, I did like this one a bit more (but not solely based on that).
We open back in 1996, where we meet a young Cletus Kasady (Jack Bandeira) communicating back and forth through holding cells with Frances Barrison, AKA Shriek (Naomie Harris); his love interest. It's unmentioned in the film, but some may recognize her as being a mutant from the comics, and... well, that's all I'm gonna say about that. I'll just say that her appearance on top of the mid-credit stinger and a couple of other curious details do help push this one up for me in quality as opposed to the first. Anyway, long story short, we see Shriek's powers at work as she attempts to escape from a team trying to take her to a facility, led by officer Patrick Mulligan (Stephen Graham) but is ultimately unsuccessful, and separated from Cletus.
In the present, Mulligan contacts Eddie Brock - still bonded with Venom (Tom Hardy) - to speak with Kasady, who he interviewed a year prior. Kasady offers him all of the information he can offer on his crimes in exchange for a favour, otherwise he ends up on death row. This, of course, eventually leads to a little piece of Venom bonding with Cletus to create our favourite symbiotic psychopath, Carnage, who helps Cletus with his search for his lost love. Meanwhile, there's a secondary plot involving Eddie's ex-fiancée, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) and her engagement to Dr. Dan Lewis (Reid Scott) which kind of does the 'Spider-Man 2' in that so much of it has to do with his secret life interfering too much with his normal one.
Now, for as much as I love the casting of Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom, I think it's safe to say that Woody Harrelson is the one who really steals the show here as Cletus Kasady/Carnage. For yours truly, this was always a weird case. I saw Cletus a lot like a Joker-type psychopath, and therefore if he was ever cast in a movie, there's some flexibility depending on how you want to interpret the character. Eddie, on the other hand, wasn't so flexible. He needed specifics, and our experience with 'Spider-Man 3' really showed us that when we collectively gasped "Topher Grace!?" But damn, Harrelson sets the bar here. This is one of those cases where I feel if he's to be recast in the future (as Joker has been so many times) it would be a very tough act to follow.
On top of Harrelson's acting skills, I also really just love the way things look in these movies. Venom already always looked great, but what they do with Carnage here was just awesome. There's a big final fight where they show you all the crazy stuff Carnage can do, as Cletus has no problem with letting his symbiote take the wheel. So in case you haven't picked up on it, Carnage is what makes this movie worth watching more than anything. Otherwise, Eddie's relationship with Venom continues to be strained, and ultimately comedic, we see the return of Mrs. Chen (Peggy Lu), and one can get a few good laughs from Venom playing off his hatred of "Dr. Dan". All in all, I feel pretty much the same as I did with the first one, but I did appreciate Cletus/Carnage just enough that this is a "High 3"
The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
'The Hitman's Bodyguard' was a movie that I found to be quite a bit of fun, and though not necessarily a great flick, it gave me laughs, and delivered more or less what I expected. I saw it based on the idea of Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson playing off each other, which is honestly still something that sounds kind of amazing. The overall result was more of a randomized giggle-fest than something that made me constantly laugh out loud. Its sequel, here, isn't really something I feel different about. They are a fun couple of movies, good for a laugh, but nothing about them is as knee-slappingly hilarious as one might feel it could be.
To recap the previous film, bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is hired by an old flame to escort and protect a pro-assassin named Darius Kincaid (Jackson) so he can testify against a tyrant named Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), guilty of a share of unspeakable crimes. Kincaid and Bryce find themselves ducking and dodging Dukhovich's constant attacks, however, and the result ends up being a pretty witty sort of buddy cop film, without it really being a buddy cop film. It was a film not without its charm, something I'd watch again, but not something I'd rush to watch again. This is a touch different, but it's very much an excuse to get these characters back on screen again for those who want to see more of Reynolds being Reynolds and Jackson being Jackson (which, by the way, I am guilty of anyway, so no worries there).
As this one picks up, we meet up with Bryce, who is trying to retire from the bodyguarding game after the events of the last film. He speaks to his therapist who suggests a vacation, which, of course, he goes on. However, while on his vacation, he is interrupted by Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) who finds him there, under the impression her husband, Darius, is in a lot of trouble, needing his help. After the rescue, and instead of that being the plot, the trio are caught by Interpol agent Bobby O'Neill (Frank Grillo), needing their help to find a terrorist named Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas), who is plotting against the European Union, wanting to bring down the European power grid and infrastructure. Mission follows, humour ensues, and it's not quite as good as the first.
Although I have a sort of bias towards both Reynolds and Jackson (I just love the guys as people, let alone a lot of the roles they play), much like the first film, I left this thinking it probably could have been better, but I'm also not turning my nose up at it. I got my fair share of giggles, it was more or less what I expected, and I don't really have any genuine complaints about it. The only thing that got a little bit under my skin was Selma Hayak's dialogue. They seem to go out of their way to make her the loud, vicious, no-shit-taking Mexican American stereotype. A lot of her humour has to do with how loud she is and how she pronounces things, and I know she can do much better. Reynolds and Jackson are pretty much what one would expect, but they don't manage to go as all out as they could have.
I would say I like the first one better, but to be honest, I could find myself bored one night and giving these a nice back-to-back viewing. It's the kind of movie I'm not excited to see again, but it would make for a mildly fun double feature. Something to watch if you're sick at home, or just plain bored with nothing to do. These are a couple of movies that I have a tough time recommending to just anyone, but I would probably argue that it's perfectly watchable for Reynolds and/or Jackson fans. I think a lot of critics frown on these titles, but I choose to go somewhat against the grain on this one. I didn't love it, and it wasn't without its fair share of problems, but I have to admit that I still enjoyed it for what it was.
Here we have one of the 2020 titles that has been pushed back time and time again that I've pretty much been chomping at the bit for since first seeing a trailer back in late 2019. This seemed to have a concept that was right up my alley, featured Ryan Reynolds in the lead (because who doesn't love the guy?), and looked like it offered some pretty awesome visual effects, along with a gaming easter egg or two. Little did I know, however, that the trailer only scratched the surface on what this movie was all about. Most of what's awesome about this movie isn't actually seen in its trailers.
What we know before going into the movie is that it features a Non-Playable Character (or NPC) named Guy (Reynolds) existing in an open-world, online game called 'Free City'. He works as a bank teller with his best friend, a security guard named Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), blissfully unaware that his life exists within a video game as he goes through the same bank heist routine day in, day out, to the point where it's just part of his day. He begins to deviate from his programming, however, when he runs into user "Molotov Girl" who he claims is the "girl of his dreams". This leads to him eventually stealing a user's sunglasses (users have sunglasses, NPCs do not) and developing a mind of his own, with the ability to see the gamer's display.
Meanwhile, in the real world, we learn that 'Free City' is a famous game whose code was actually stolen from a game called 'Life Itself', created by our two real-world leads, Walter "Keys" McKey (Joe Keery) and Millie Rusk (Jodie Comer). Keys finds himself actually working for Soonami, the company that stole his work and defends things with the impression their creation is still famous, even though it went another route. Millie, however, isn't so forgiving as she spends time playing 'Free City' in search of hints of proof that their code was stolen by Soonami's head developer, the eccentric Antwan (Taika Waititi). She spends her time in the game as "Molotov Girl", and soon enough, without spoling too much, we learn what the connection is between the now self-aware Guy (who takes the time to level up his character and become super famous as "Blue Shirt Guy"), and the pair of 'Life Itself' developers.
This was a fine example of a movie that not only gave me what I wanted to see, but offered more, and the more it offered, the more things about the movie made sense. I went into this thinking it was going to be some fun, mindless, Ryan Reynolds action with some solid comedy. However, when the film is all over, you do manage to see things on a somewhat deeper level than you probably thought you were going to experience. In its own way, the film is actually kind of beautiful, and does a good job of exploring how a self-aware NPC may think, work, etc. I enjoy the fact that when he starts levelling up, he does it very quickly, as it's very likely that his familiarity with the inner workings of the game far exceed the average users.
If I was to mish-mash this together, comparing it to other movies, it's almost like taking 'Ready Player One', 'Scott Pigrim' and throwing them in a blender with 'Eternal Sunshine' and something like 'Inception'. There's a very dream-like quality to things here, but it does a good job at giving us the balance between what's going on in the real world vs what's going on in the game. In some ways, the main character of the film isn't even Guy so much as its Keys and everything he has to put up with in the real world, with Millie acting as the "messenger" in and out of the game. I loved the way everything came together; not necessarily predictable, and when it's all said and done, I was happy about the way things went.
This has a great fun factor to it, and all sorts of easter eggs to keep an eye out for. I'm a sucker for a film where you have to pay attention to the plot but there's so much going on in the background that one might very well miss. It's not like 'Ready Player One' where it's literally everywhere, but it's generally subtly done, and you'll catch a few neat things like the less obvious Mega Man's Mega Buster, or the more obvious Portal Gun (which isn't exactly the same, but we all know what it's supposed to be). It does happen one time where Disney force feeds us some Avengers/Star Wars material, but even that makes for a pretty solid visual gag, so the complaint is there but very minimal. All in all, this is absolutely one of my favourite movies of 2021, and I can't wait to see it again to try to pick up on some more subtle easter eggs!
The Suicide Squad
Not to be confused with the 2016 David Ayer film 'Suicide Squad', this one has 'Guardians of the Galaxy' director James Gunn behind the wheel. As a fan of those 'Guardians' movies, when I heard about Gunn taking the helm of this project, I got pretty excited and it has been on my "must-see" list since the news first emerged. Although there was controversy surrounding his name, considering what I knew he could do with an ensemble cast and his directorial style, he was just perfect for the job.
The film opens, hitting the ground running as intelligence officer, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) deploys two "Suicide Squad" teams (or Task Force X teams) to the South American island of Corto Maltese after its government is brought down by anti-American radicals. Team One is led by Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and further consists of Savant (Michael Rooker), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion), Javelin (Flula Borg), Mongal (Mayling Ng), Weasel (Sean Gunn), and of course the great Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). We learn the basics really quick for those who may not have bothered with the first film, and it's simple - in exchange for completing the tasks set by Waller, these criminals get ten years off their prison sentence.
Meanwhile, the second team, who has the same deal, approaches the island. Led by Bloodsport (Idriz Elba), this team further consists of Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone/Steve Agee), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior). The team's collective purpose for this mission is to locate a man known as the Thinker (Peter Capaldi), a metahuman who heads a top secret experiment potentially endangering all of humanity known as "Project Starfish". The teams are to bring down the Nazi-era laboratory Jötunheim, which holds said project. The main focus here is on the second team, as plot-wise, Bloodsport is in this to protect his daughter from jailtime. He's the lead here while Harley plays everyone's favourite DC anti-hero.
I am very happy to report that James Gunn's directorial style was what I wanted to see and more. Not only does he totally succeed in delivering a lot of that humour we know him for with the 'Guardians' films, but he makes damn sure he delivers us a good R-rated superhero (or anti-hero) movie complete with violence, language, and even a bit of nudity. One could probably consider this DC's answer to the 'Deadpool' movies. There are plenty of laughs, and a lot of the laughs have to do with how over the top things can get. I honestly had a smile on my face through this whole thing, as it somewhat represents a release of all that pent of rage we've all been feeling under the shadow of Covid 19. One could consider this a pretty great outlet for the times.
With an ensemble cast like this, one probably gets to wondering how all these names are handled. This certainly sounds like it has the potential to be another 'X-3' with too many characters in so little time. I have to say that Gunn handles things very well. I had to appreciate that he managed to make Harley more of a background character, but she still manages to steal the show here just doing what she does. There is a moment that might make Harley fans wince and cringe a bit, but don't worry, she doesn't exactly disappoint. Harley fans should get just as much a kick out of her here as they did with the last two films featuring her.
One big question people have is "Is this a sequel?" Well, it's like this. Producer Peter Safran has described this as a total reboot, despite the fact that several cast members return as their respective characters. It's further confusing to try to figure out where 'Birds of Prey' lands in all of this too. Personally speaking, I think it's all open to interpretation. DC seems to have developed a bit of a talent over the past while in that they are making movies that could stand on their own instead of necessarliy being part of the DC Universe we see from 'Justice League'. Unlike the 'Avengers' films, there's not a whole lot of important connective material. So this very well could be a sequel, but really, it's meant to stand on its own. I think it plays more on the potential the original film had with same cast members. Again, look at 'Deadpool'. Ryan Reynolds was always perfect for the role, but 'Wolverine' really screwed it up.
As far as 2021 movies go, as well as DC titles, this is easily one of my favourites. I didn't come out of this quite as mind-blown as I expected, but I really enjoyed it. Gunn did a great job here, providing some new faces, tackling a huge cast, making things stylistic, and absolutely not holding back on the R-rated violence we fans not only want but somewhat expect from a movie like this. It's another comic book title that deserves an R-rating in order to do it justice. I also have to admire that he just plain went for it. I mean, Project Starfish is really crazy and even kind of stupid when you think about it, but somehow he made it work really well here. What more can I say? I am impressed, and would love to see Gunn take on more of these (if there are going to be any more).
Here we have the next Disney flick based on one of their rides. Perhaps one may remember 'The Haunted Mansion' with Eddie Murphy, or this other little title, 'Pirates of the Caribbean' - so this isn't exactly a first. The real question is, is it more 'Mansion' (which was very mediocre), or more 'Pirates' (which became its own successful franchise)? The short answer - as one might expect, it's somewhere in the middle, but it does lean much more towards 'Pirates' in style and execution.
The film opens with a little background, telling about how in the 16th century, a group of Spanish conquistadors go to South America to search for a tree whose petals can cure just about anything; known as the now mythological "Tears of the Moon". Things go down, and long story short, these conquistadors end up cursed by the jungle (a whole story that's unveiled later in the movie). We fast-forward to London, 1916, where Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), present Lily's research on the Tears of the Moon, and suggest its aid in the British war effort, using its pedals to heal their wounded. They further request access to an arrowhead, believed to be the key to finding this tree. The pair are brushed aside, but Lily acquires it anyway, and the adventure begins.
Eventually, the pair come across Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), who poses as harbourmaster, Nilo (Paul Giamatti) when he realizes Lily has an arrowhead he apparently knows something about. He promises her and her brother a jungle tour that will potentially lead to the Tears of the Moon. However, on their tail, like any good 'Indiana Jones' movie, is a German Prince named Joachim (Jesse Plemons). He is also after the arrowhead and wants the Tears for his own selfish reasons. As the chase goes on, they encounter all the jungle can throw at them, but are they prepared to face some of the more dangerous things lurking in the jungle? Liker perhaps a few cursed conquistadors who can use jungle elements as, pretty much super powers?
This is a movie that seems to borrow a lot from pre-existing material, and makes me think of it as a cross between 'Indiana Jones' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. But I might suggest I had more fun with those titles. There are a few moments to this that don't make a lot of sense, and it was a fun adventure, but it was no 'Curse of the Black Pearl' (still the best 'Pirates' movie, in my opinion) where I had a great time with it. This was entertaining, and not a bad one for a family night out to the theater. I really think that if I was younger, I would have had much more fun with this than I actually did. But I will say that the film isn't without a few things to praise.
Although some of the CG is kind of weak, I have to admit that I rather enjoyed what they did with the cursed conquistadors. That part is very reminiscent of 'Dead Man's Chest', and the curse involved with that. The CG might not pop, but the concept of these half-man, half-whatever characters was always something I thought was cool. I also don't normally like Jesse Plemons in anything he does, but his performance here as a bit of a bumbler was actually kind of great. He's still the big bad guy here, and at moments to be taken seriously, but on the whole, it seems to be an almost unintentionally humorous portion of the movie.
My final thoughts on this are pretty simple. I think if you've got a family with children who are chomping at the bit to get back into theaters, this is a perfectly fine, fun adventure movie that's good for everyone. There may be some scary bits for the little ones, but that's about where I compare it to the 'Pirates' movies. If your kid can survive a 'Pirates' movie, they can survive this. While it may not be something I had a blast with, it's something I'd recommend as a "first time back" (namely for us Canadians who have been stuck a little longer) for a family outing. For just the average movie-goer though, it's all dependent on taste. There are better adventure flicks out there, but I have to admit that its been a while since I've seen a decent jungle flick, and this really wasn't bad at all.