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3 Stars Movies

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

The key ingredient that made 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok one of the MCU’s most entertaining entries was it’s director Taika Waititi. The first two Thor films (mainly the second one) should almost be embarrassed when compared to the third, because the character was given a big injection of the unique semi-quirky humor that Waititi is known for.

 Five years (and one Infinity War) later, the director has returned with Thor: Love and Thunder. It has the director’s touch, but it is lacking some of his magic.

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4 Stars

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Part of me wants to go the coward’s way, and not even review Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Easily the most anticipated movie since Avengers: Endgame, I will do all I can to be sure not to spoil anything for anyone, provided they have at least seen the two trailers for the film (and while this may be too little too late, stay away from the movies IMDB page).

Categories
2 1/2 Stars Movies

Eternals (2021)

I was as shocked as the next person when it was announced that Eternals had a low score on Rotten Tomatoes (as of this writing, the critic score is 49%.) This still did not deter me, as I had a good amount of hope knowing that Chloe Zhao was at the helm (more on her later).

When it was over, I left the theater knowing I was on the fence for this film as much as I have been for any film in some time.

Categories
2 1/2 Stars Movies

Venom: Let there be Carnage (2021)

Despite my qualms I had with the first Venom film, I did have some high hopes with the upcoming sequel when I saw the first film’s post-credit scene.

 While I have stated I am not an expert in comic book lore, I feel I know enough to know that Woody Harrelson would be the perfect actor to play the villainous Cletus Kasady/Carnage. Even with him added on to this universe, the result is still a basic run of the mill action packed CGI fest. It is a shame, since there are a decent amount of moments in Venom: Let there be Carnage that had me smiling almost like a symbiote invested entity would.

Categories
3 1/2 Stars Movies

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

As the second film of the MCU’s Phase 4, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings also holds the distinction of being the first true origin story film of the MCU since 2019’s Captain Marvel.

Of course, one could argue that Black Widow was also an origin story, but we have seen Natasha since 2010’s Iron Man 2. Shang-Chi is a character we had no interaction with until now. Like a good amount of the films in the series, it showcases a character that only true comic book fans know something about (I can still remember when non fanboys like myself needed the movies to introduce the likes of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thanos, Black Panther, and even Iron Man.)

Categories
3 Stars Movies

Black Widow (2021)

Even with the COVID pandemic pushing back the release date of Black Widow (and a host of other films), the newest Marvel film indeed seems to be arriving rather late.

Perhaps those who have never seen a film from the MCU won’t feel that way, but for the rest of us, it is inevitable (pardon my Thanos plug there) to feel this film should have come out before the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), where Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johanson) dies. That fact still hovers over the second female lead film of the MCU (after 2019’s Captain Marvel), leading us to feel like those behind the scenes may have screwed up.

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3 1/2 Stars 4 1/2 Stars 4 Stars Movies

The Small Axe Films (2020)

Since the mid-2010s, “binge watching” has become a thing of human nature.

TV series and mini-series have been gulped up faster than pizza at a teen sleep over, which has happened even more so in the last year with people spending more time at home due to COVID-19. While most binging seems to be associated with TV series (most notably reruns of “The Office”), some series undoubtedly have taken a more cinematic approach (this was what started with “The Sopranos” and one of the main reasons why it was so revolutionary.) While I have more than enough TV/mini series I have yet to catch up on (since I watch too many movies), I have yet to see the line get more blurred between mini-series and movies as I have after watching the five “episodes” of Small Axe.

Categories
Movies

Fearful Fandemic

Within the last few weeks, there have been at least two instances at the dinner table where my siblings and I were at each others throats. The ultimate discussion (with varying amounts of volume) were taking place over a subject of vital importance: Which was the best film of the Star Wars saga (not including spinoffs)? Despite my best efforts to ensure Connor and Jackson how great the original trilogy was, they stayed defiant that Revenge of the Sith (Episode 3) is the best.

More than likely, you have become part of a “fandom” at one point in your life. It may not be as vast as those of Star Wars or Star Trek, but it is there. You invest in characters and they become more than just entertainment: They become like an extra family member you feel you did not need at first.

Categories
"Top Tens", and others Movies

The 100 Best Films of the 2010s

The planning of making a top 100 movies of the 2010s started around a year ago, though the thought that it was a good idea to do so faded away more as time went on.

It almost began to cross the border into frivolity. A self made gordian knot.

Even though my top ten does seem to be set in stone now and for the future, the other ninety keep switching over time. You would think that my favorite movies of a certain year would be higher than those I thought second or third of the same year, but that is not always the case. Like all humans, my mind changes over time.

What I like most about this list is how personal it is to me. It does not have to align with other critics or movie buffs (which no “best of” list should, when you think about it).

That said, films such as Get Out, Black Panther, Knives out, The Farewell, Baby Driver, Eighth Grade, Blade Runner 2049, Joker, and even Frozen were films I had to Let Go of (pun intended).

Well, here it goes…

Categories
Movies

How Hollywood is Tearing Us Apart

In the history of film, no aspect of the movie making process is easier to see how far we have come than that of special effects. From 1903’s A Trip to the Moon to King Kong to Star Wars to James Cameron to the MCU, it is no secret that CGI is a key factor (if not the key factor) to a box office smash.


Back in 2008, the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button told the story of how the title character (played by Brad Pitt) lives a life in reverse: being born old then gradually getting younger. Since then, we have seen more examples of Hollywood using technology to either bring back actors to life, such as in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with the character of General Tarkin being brought back despite the fact that the actor, Peter Cushing, died in 1994. The same movie used the same trick with Princess Leia, played by the late great Carrie Fisher (from what I have read, this will not be the case for the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker). Actors are also now able to look younger, most recently with Will Smith in Gemini Man and with characters in Martin Scoresese’s newest film, The Irishman (unseen by me at this writing, though I have been waiting for this more than any other 2019 film).


However, this technology has taken a big hit of criticism last week, when it was revealed that a film would be made using this form of CGI to bring back James Dean to star in a movie.


If this is the first time you are hearing about this, I assure you it is not a joke.


James Dean, who died over half a century ago, will be “brought back” to star in a movie. This ranks up with the “colorizing” of old movies (in which Ted Turner made Black and White classics look like trashy coloring books) as the most ludicrous of Hollywood ideas.


Anyone even remotely interested in film history will have heard of James Dean. Born in Indiana in 1931, he starred in only three films: East of Eden, Rebel without a Cause, and Giant (the only one of which I have yet to see).

Though he lived to see East of Eden released, he died in a car crash at the age of 24 nearly a month before the release of Rebel (for which he is probably most famous for). He was the first actor nominated posthumously for an Oscar, then received another posthumous Oscar the next year (for East of Eden and Giant, respectively). The true legend of Dean was now born.


In the 1950s, he grew up when it was cool to rebel, and became one of the symbols of the term (the others would be Elvis Presley and Dean’s own idol, Marlon Brando). Like Brando, he brought a new type of acting to the screen (most commonly known as “the method”), making Dean seem more visceral and raw than others before him. Who knows what kind of career he would have had if it weren’t for his fatal car crash (he was a notorious fan of high speed racing).


His influence is clearly felt to this day (even The Room‘s Tommy Wiseau is a fan, hence “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”), or else directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh would not have had the idea to use him (well, his image) in their upcoming movie Finding Jack. Based off of a book of the same name by author Gareth Crocker, the film is about a Vietnam soldier named Fletcher Carson (Dean) who is recovering from a recent tragedy. Despite wishing to die in the war, he befriends a dog that brings his life new meaning.


According to the filmmakers, they did plenty of auditions for the role of Carson, but decided that Dean would be the only actor who could play him, despite the fact that another actor will have to voice the character.


There are a few instances where this has been used are far back as commercials in the 1990s, such as soda commercials involving Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. During the 84th Academy Awards (the one that was sadly hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway), there was a segment when Billy Crystal came out to talk about the legendary Bob Hope as a projection of Hope was on stage cracking jokes. Though there was no real reason for this other than to show the technology (the image of Hope basically introduced the next presenters), I still found it cool (I mean, Bob Hope was arguably the greatest Oscar host of all time. Even Billy Crystal would say the same.) The difference is that was the performer representing themselves, not used to serve a work of fiction as some sort of puppet.


God gave us Artistic freedom, but I would argue that this is robbing others of their freedom. Not just the living actors who could perform these parts (the filmmakers said they auditioned many before they determined only James Dean could play the part, but since the Screen Actors Guild has roughly 160,000 members, I have some doubts), but also the director. Film director/icon Alfred Hitchcock said, “In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director”.


Thankfully, the idea of digitally “reanimating” deceased stars is being shot down in the media. Captain America himself Chris Evans has called it “shameful”, as have others such as Dylan Sprouse and Elijah (“Frodo Baggins”) Wood. Perhaps the biggest opponent of the idea is Zelda Williams, daughter of the late great comic Robin Williams, pointing out how her father would not let anyone use his likeness of this sort for 25 years after his death (and if there is ANYONE you can not replicate, it is Robin Williams).


It gets even worse. A licensing specialist CMG Worldwide has combined with a creation studio named Observe Media to form Worldwide XR. According to their website, James Dean is just the beginning (they do plan on using his image more, using the shameless phrase “Think of it as James Dean 2.0”). They have plans for other celebrities, not just film stars like James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, Dorothy Dandridge, Rock Hudson, and Christopher Reeve. From what I have seen, this would include people such as wrestler Andre the Giant, baseball legends “Shoeless” Joe Jackson & Lou Gehrig, jazz drummer Buddy Rich, and aviation icon Amelia Earhardt.


The idea of this is not only foolish, but borderline dangerous. I don’t just mean from a financial aspect (the cost of The Irishman was mainly related to the technology). It is bringing people back to life who more than likely did not know about this advanced tech in the first place (let alone any tech, for that matter. It is almost like necromancy for the 21st century.

Imagine if Jordan Peterson had his image taken, and someone was able to have him talk (or someone imitate his voice) about the wonders of atheism. It would be like me, someone who is five foot, made to look like I can out dunk Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


It is as if the people in charge failed to remember the advice given from Jurassic Park in which Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) argues about why bring dinosaurs back to life is a bad idea.


“Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”