Because movie theaters aren't quite open to full capacity yet and because the studios are taking their time and being cautious about their releases, watching new movies at home has been a new normal for the last year now. It's crazy to think its been a whole year of COVID-19 and I'm hoping everyone can get the vaccine as soon as possible. No matter what happens, we are still getting new films at home, and its working so far as an alternative to the movie theater.
Monday, March 8, 2021
Friday, March 5, 2021
THIS POST WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS PERTAINING TO THE DISNEY+ MINI-SERIES "WANDAVISION" YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
That's a wrap on "WandaVision." The new mini-series that premiered on Disney+ roughly nine weeks ago. The mini-series revolved around Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and basically chronicled what she has been up to since all of our favorite Marvel heroes defeated Thanos and brought everyone back to life. After The Battle For Earth (which is what the final battle in "Avengers: Endgame" is referred to, on its Wiki page at least) loved ones who got dusted were reunited, and some of the heroes died. Vision sadly was unable to return due to the sad timing of Thanos' snap. Wanda felt like one of the very few who lost everything and gained nothing in return. She was determined to deal with her grief, so she used her unbelievable power to create her own reality in a sleepy town of Westview.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, and which was hotly debated on social media, the first few episodes definitely threw people off. Why are Wanda and Vision living through old school sitcoms? Who is controlling all of this? Somebody within the universe is watching too? Who is it and why? There was definitely some fun to be had in those first few episodes, and I'm not sure everybody got the joke. But it did all make sense by the end.
If "WandaVision" was about anything, it was about grief. How we can sometimes turn to nostalgia in order to restrain the pain of whatever is making us grieve in the first place. We learn that as Wanda and Pietro were growing up, they had a poor but happy home. She grew up watching DVD's of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Bewitched." That was her family bonding time, and of course she would hold on to those precious memories when trying to cope with the pain of missing Vision and her brother. We can't wear nostalgia as armor though, that will slowly tear us apart, just as it did Wanda on the show. Someone I follow on Twitter called WandaVision "The Good version of 'Ready Player One.''' While that might be funny, when you think about it long enough, it makes perfect sense.
One of the things "WandaVision" definitely benefitted from was the weekly episode release. Something that seems foreign in a binge TV world. That set up worked for the show, rather than against it. Since each ending made the audience guess about next week. Kathryn Hahn is definitely someone from the comic books, but who? WHOA, Evan Peters who played Quicksilver in the Fox "X-Men" movies...is now playing him again now?!? What does this mean! Monica Rambeau? I know that name from somewhere! WHOA, WANDA'S KIDS HAVE SUPERPOWERS! There was always something to talk about each week, which added to the fun.
Overall, and this is the comic book nerd in me talking so take it as you will, but the answers to these questions could sometimes be underwhelming. When they introduced Wanda's children, and the break-neck speed at which they grew in this show, I thought Young Avengers may be on the horizon. But in order to release the people of Westview from her spell and in order to stop Agatha Harkness (more on her in a bit) Wanda had to do away with the reality she created for herself. That means that Vision and her children disappeared. Sadly, if Young Avengers ever happens (which seems not that far-fetched since we have already been introduced to Harley Keener and Cassie Lang in this universe) it'll be without Speed and Wiccan. Too bad. While Evan Peters showing up as a character he played in X-Men, the reason as to why he was Quicksilver here may have disappointed some viewers. Obviously, messing with the multiverse is on the horizon with the MCU, but it doesn't start here. Evan Peters is basically the end of a joke and nothing more.
One of the biggest strengths of this show has been Kathryn Hahn and her fabulous work as Agnes, and the slow introduction of her being Agatha Harkness. Agatha Harkness was an evil magic-user from the comic books who has ran into all sorts of characters in the comic books, Wanda included. In the show, she wants to absorb Wanda's power. Because, yes, while this show did explore all sorts of themes, its a superhero show at the end of the day. Of course there's a Big Bad that Wanda was destined to take care of. Like I said, Hahn was great here, and I am glad that Agatha doesn't die, leaving the door open for her character to return in some form.
I equally enjoyed Teyonah Parris' work as Monica Rambeau. The daughter of Maria Rambeau, whom we met in the "Captain Marvel" movie in 2019. We find out that Monica was one of the many people who got dusted from Thanos' snap, and she re-materializes in hospital, where she was staying due to her mom's health. She comes back to learn that Maria died of her health complications, she volunteers to enter the mysterious force field created by Wanda, agreeing with SWORD, an organization created by her mother. (Apparently since the 90's, even though somehow this is the first we are hearing about it) Monica Rambeau already has powers and I'm sure we will learn more about those powers sometime in the future, because the finale today made it clear that Monica isn't going anywhere soon. I like Teyonah Parris a lot and I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.
Those are all the big comic book characters introduced. The BIG CAMEO that Paul Bettany kept teasing the last few weeks ended up being just smoke and mirrors. The final episode today is a pretty big spectacle and little else. Personally, I am not sure nine episodes were needed, but those missing the big superhero fights were satisfied. Some people like that the final episode wasn't a big cameo fest, while others were expecting someone big to show up. It just goes to show that we have to let go of our expectations with these pieces of entertainment. Sometimes people ruin things for themselves because they are always holding onto rumors or things they hear or read on the internet and they treat it like the Holy Word and we can't do that. Wanda's future is going to be pretty crazy, suggests the final credit scene of this last episode, personally after her journey here, that's all I needed. This was an overall very enjoyable mini-series. Disney proved that Marvel could be cool on their streaming service and now I'm excited for "Falcon and the Winter Soldier" even more.
Monday, March 1, 2021
Amazing that the 2021 award season is just now kicking off at the time every year where its usually winding down. But you thank COVID-19 for that.
I didn't watch the Golden Globes last night. I read the winners list this morning. I know Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted and knowing them, I am sure they did really well. The older I get, the more cynical around awards I have noticed I get. Sure, I am a little interested to see who pompous Hollywood likes to give their golden statues to, but that's all it is, it's pompous Hollywood self-congratulating themselves. I know there fans of these ceremonies and people who specifically like the kinds of movies that the award's season covers, and I don't mean to judge what they like. You are more than okay to like the movies you like and enjoy the awards season. The older I get though, the more I think the conversations around award circuits is limited. I detest the idea that certain filmmakers will make an "Oscar-bait" movie. Because honestly, doesn't that make awards redundant? I don't like that entire genres and entire types of films are ignored because the subject matter isn't enough for the award circuit. It all drives me nuts more and more.
2021 awards are going to be even weirder this year. For some reason, because of COVID, the awards got pushed back this year. COVID may have made the business cautious, to be safe over being sorry, and I understand that completely. But I don't get that the measure of a year really goes kapoot. They were successfully able to work around it. It was postponed and many actors, from what I saw, received their awards from home last night. Good move, for sure. But including 2021 releases when we should be focusing on the year 2020. Each year has their own mix of great moments from film and television and I think if you are going to pick what the best of each year was, it has to be set within that year.
"Judas and The Black Messiah" is a wildly great movie. I gave the movie a great review. Movies that great usually don't come out this early in a year. If its such an early anomaly, why is it being caked in with a bunch of 2020 titles. Don't get me wrong, I am glad Daniel Kaluuya is getting recognized for his work in this film. But it almost feels like an unfair advantage against a sea of 2020 films filled with great performances that got pushed to side for a 2021 movie.
I don't remember these awards being categorized by a year and three months, they are the best of the year, so we should focus on the year in question. That year is 2020.
I feel like this isn't a COVID issue and I don't understand why it happened. It makes the whole season of awards very weird and I don't know how this will affect the future of these ceremonies.
Oh well. I've spoken my peace on the subject. Now I am going to start figuring out who will appear on my annual Heroes vs. Villains March Madness bracket!
Monday, February 22, 2021
2021 has been, like any other movie year, one of ups and downs. I've been busy as a bumblebee this past year, so I haven't had as much time to write as I'd like. But rest assured, I am seeing as many 2021 releases as I can. All of which have been in the comfort of my home. Because of the pandemic, there is still so much being released at home. Netflix is releasing new movies a week. HBOMax is pretty much doing the same. Streaming services are keeping the business afloat right now. I don't know how theaters are really doing right now. But streaming is making it work. Digital rentals are making it work. With all of this together, I am still awash in film. What some people don't seem to understand either is that "new" doesn't automatically mean 2021. I've been spending 2021 watching as many movies that I haven't seen yet. From the 2000's, the 90's, the 80's, even the 30's. I've been watching 2020 movies that I haven't had a chance to see yet. Anything you haven't seen yet is new, and its been an adventure at home, even when I'm not actively going to the theater.
That's not to say that 2021 hasn't already been memorable. Let's dig through some of the 2021 releases that I haven't written about yet.
It was pretty canny move for Warner Bros. to release their entire yearly slate on HBOMax as well as theaters. Has it paid off so far? Well, that really depends. A studio is a studio. They will have hits and misses, and usually in the beginning, there are mostly misses. "Locked Down" starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne Hathaway features two great leads, it's got a fun "Ocean's 11" style vibe, but its pretty teflon Hollywood as far as story and structure is concerned. There wasn't enough here to fully wow me in any way. It's a movie that tried really hard to use COVID-19 as a springboard, but just because you take advantage of a momentary gimmick doesn't mean your movie is going automatically be good. The movie itself doesn't have much to say about how our society has changed or evolved because of this and it's entertaining enough to matter. It's very, very light entertainment.
"The Little Things" starring Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto is a fairly typical, gritty detective movie. We got two hotshot cops who are trying to solve a series of grizzly murders. They constantly trying to one-up each other. They will eventually grow to respect each other. One cop has a family he really cares about, the other is divorced with a tough past that will miraculously tie into the story in this movie being told. Does any of this sound familiar? Because it should. We see so many of these types of movies, that they are a dime a dozen. So much so that I wonder why Denzel and even Rami bothered in the first place, surely they could find better projects to spend their talents on. It tries hard to reach a morally gray ending, but its really not enough to warrant a "good enough" rating, especially since they aren't covering new material here.
Warner Brothers will probably have more misses this year, each year is full of them.
More than a magician
Easily the best thing I've seen in 2021 so far has been "In and Of Itself" which is currently showing on Hulu. On the surface, it may look like magician Derek DelGaudio performing one of the many showings he had live from New York City (I believe it was?) but this isn't just some special. DelGaudio isn't the typical magician. When I say that, I don't mean that I can't figure out the prestige in his tricks. I'll confess to you all, magicians do nothing for me anymore due to "The Prestige" and "The Illusionist." Simply because I spend my time trying to figure out the trick instead of focusing on the show. DelGaudio isn't just a typical magician, he is also a vulnerable storyteller. There is so much of DelGaudio that goes into his show that its almost an autobiography. Not only that, but he asks his audience to give something of themselves to the show as well. One of the big, story-weaving tricks is that each member of the audience must pick a card, each card has a specific nickname on it and you must pick a nickname card that pertains to your life. How that ties into DelGaudio's show is just part of the fun. Magician's don't need to be vulnerable, they don't need to tell their stories to us. But DelGaudio chose to in order to enhance his show and it makes for quite the experience.
JT making it real!
I can't say that I was a big NSYNC fan growing up. I also didn't really care for Justin Timberlake as an actor when he first started showing up in movies. Much like many celebrities who jump into acting, Timberlake carried his persona into his roles and it usually hurt the movie in some way. Those days could be behind him now. Scoring big playing in films like "The Social Network" and "Inside Llewyn Davis," Timberlake has made a true name for himself as an actor. He just leveled up this year in the unforgettable "Palmer" available on AppleTV+. Palmer is a guy who has just got out of prison when we meet him. He's currently living with his grandmother until he gets on his feet. He's got a parole officer, he's struggling to find work. The whole bit. Despite the violent arrest on his record, he's able to get a janitorial job at a school. Palmer reluctantly bonds with a child who lives next door to his grandmother, and they begin hanging out quite a bit. The child's mother is taken away due to drugs and the boy stays with Palmer's grandmother, which leads Palmer to become even closer to the boy. When his past tries to catch up with him, Palmer must make some quick, smart decisions. It's a simple story, a straightforward tale but its well done. Justin Timberlake gives the best performance he's given in anything so far, and just watching him grow is all the reason to see it.
Worth The Hype
As we draw closer to a very weird Awards circuit, you'll be hearing much about "Nomadland" which is now available on Hulu. I watched this past weekend and I am glad I did. I am usually weary of anything getting such a big push from awards season lobbyists, but in this case, they are dead right. "Nomadland' is visual poetry. A miracle of a movie. Francis McDormand lands yet another stellar, memorable performance to add to her unbelievable career. Here, she plays Fern, a woman who sadly lost everything in 2011. Her job, her husband, her home. Because of her circumstance, she sells most of her belongings, purchases a van and equips it to live out of. She becomes a "nomad," and spends her days looking for work.
We get what feels like an exclusive look at a very small corner of our country's culture. Fern follows a long line of other nomads; people who are living out of their cars, constantly traveling for work, a community that gets together and learns and teaches itself survival and self-sufficiency skills. What's amazing is the movie features actual, real-life nomads. There isn't much of a story here, as Fern drifts in and out of the Nomads, working, seeing the corners of our great nation. McDormand is able to speak volumes by just making a face, just reacting to this newfound lifestyle. There are many parts of the movie that feature no dialogue and McDormand is able to communicate much by just how she reacts to things. It's amazing acting. A once-in-a-lifetime performance by an actress that has elevated herself year after year.
The movie is also wise to not look down on these people or their lifestyles. There isn't some big dramatic change, that you often see in these types of movies. This isn't a situation that Fern is trying to escape. In fact, its really about what its like when you finally find your people, find your destiny, what you want out of life. "Nomadland" is a movie that simply gives you a glimpse of a facet of our country's culture. A truly spiritual and wonderful experience.
There is all sorts of good stuff out right now that is simply brand new. Check it out!
Thursday, February 18, 2021
So, the upcoming "Mortal Kombat" trailer has arrived. It looks like B-Movie mayhem. I am all for it.
While I wasn't the biggest fan of "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" in 1997, the first film from 1995 had its charms. But I don't think either movie has aged particularly well. The costumes look like Halloween cosplay. But most of all, the fight scenes were in such slow motion that they deflated the action sequences. They just never looked particularly natural. So the most important thing I was watching for with this new take was how the fights look. I love that they really pay homage to the games in which they are based on, as well as looking like raw, naturalistic fights.
For fans of the game, it might be weird that there is a brand new character introduced. Lewis Tan is playing a new character named Cole Young. While I do think its weird to introduce a brand new character into a world that is already rich with characters, this could be some smoke and mirrors. I have a movie friend who was discussing his theories with me. One could be that Cole Young is an alias for Johnny Cage, and that Young was a failed actor who decided to become a cage fighter. (Get it? Cage? Ho, ho). The other theory is that Cole Young is an alias of Bi-Han, the first Sub-Zero who would become the villain Noob Sabiot. It's clear from this trailer that the bad blood between Sub-Zero and Scorpion will be explored in this movie. So I really wouldn't mind seeing one of these theories materialize. If he is indeed just a new character, its really weird to base a movie around him. In the games, the story arguably belongs to Lui Kang, so to sideline him and make him a supporting character is strange. If they go more a "Game of Thrones" route, and tell multiple stories, that could be cool. But might be odd for a movie.
I like all types of movies. I like Oscar bait. I like experimental and artsy stuff. But I also like genre junk like this. I am big a fan of this game franchise, one of my absolute favorites. I'm excited to see what they've done here. But remember, this is based upon a video game, and the video was particularly very silly. I'm not expecting Oscar-caliber writing from this movie, and you shouldn't either. Go to the movie on its terms.
But I'm just over-the-moon excited to see Hiroyuki Sanada as Scorpion. He is, in fact, my favorite Japanese actor. He already looks amazing!
What do you think MK fans?
Monday, February 15, 2021
I think "Zack Snyder's Justice League" looks fine. It doesn't look terrible, it doesn't look like the messiah of superhero films either. It looks fine. The DCEU (if we can even call this movie apart of that) has been high and low, basically from the start. There are movies that I really like from that camp of films, and there are films that I don't care for much at all. It's totally okay if you like the films I don't like. Its perfectly okay if you love the entire franchise. If you also happen to be the type of fan that was will gush all over anything that features characters you've grown up loving all you're life? Guess what? That's okay too!