It is completely possible to hold two thoughts in your head at the same time...a less-than-positive review of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" - which is forthcoming - does not take away one iota from the fact that the late Chadwick Boseman was and is one of the most iconic, talented cinematic presences of his generation. Nor should it take away the impact or the historic importance of the first "Black Panther" movie, and what it means to millions of its fans across the world.
The loss of Boseman is felt deeply, and in "Wakanda Forever," it resonates through to the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), who are mourning the loss of Boseman's character, Black Panther himself, the King of Wakanda, T'Challa.
But while the movie draws strength and motivation from his lasting legacy, it throws the amazing fictional nation of Wakanda under the bus, in an attempt to build up a new emerging (submerged?) nation, Talukon. The result is an over-serious, over-stuffed MCU film that never is quite able to sustain the emotional weight of its first 15 minutes.
If there was ever a stereotype for what a superhero comic book would be, there's a good chance that the word-bubbles with the sounds "Whiz!", "Bam!", and "Pow!" would be included in that cliché. And if there was ever a stereotype for what a superhero comic book MOVIE would be, just refer to "Black Adam," the latest swing-and-a-miss from the flailing DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU).
"Black Adam" does it all, in that it is definitely a superhero movie. It looks great, and contains plenty of slick CG, action and fighting. But sadly, it is as hollow as they come, a film where neither the protagonist or the antagonist is all that interesting. It's everything you think a superhero movie is, but in the day-and-age of Marvel movies (or even the stellar DCCU film from earlier this year, "The Batman"), audiences require - heck, deserve - more than what The Rock was cookin' with "Black Adam."
When did superhero movies stop being fun?
Review: 'Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank' a blazing samurai story puts Mel Brooks back in the saddle
If you don't already love Mel Brooks, first off, what the hell is wrong with you? I'm not sure we can even be friends. One of the few living legends of Hollywood, Mel Brooks is both featured and revered in the new absurd yet hilarious family animated offering, "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank." It's an absolute gas - especially for those that know and love Mel Brooks, specifically his iconic 1974 spoof, "Blazing Saddles," a movie that could never, ever be made today. Or if it was, it would end up looking a lot like "Paws of Fury."
The genius of "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank," is that the creators have managed to essentially remake what is now considered to be a "politically incorrect" classic, under the guise of a simple kiddie flick, and miraculously, it works for both children and adults alike. It's subversive, but comes with a positive message of inclusion. It's risky (trust me) but includes lots of laughs for young ones.
It's a surprise, but "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank" is one of the funniest movies of the year, one of the best animated films of the year, and is one of the best new IPs (intellectual properties) that has come along in several years (considering the characters and the world that is created).
And oh yeah, it also features Mel Brooks who lends his voice to one of the characters.
The best entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have been equal parts exciting as well as funny. The character of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has always played it straight, but has had an underlying element of charm and humor laced within his Asgardian toughness. When director Taika Waititi took the reigns for the first time in the MCU with "Thor: Ragnarok," he leaned the character and the Thor film franchise into the comedy with mixed results.
Now directing the latest Thor film, "Thor: Love and Thunder," Waititi has apparently been given carte blanche by the higher-ups at Marvel to make Thor an all-out parody of itself...an absurd, campy comedy that definitely has some laughs, but does little justice to the character of Thor or to those inhabiting his universe. This is a ramshackle, choppy spoof that would work better if it existed in a vacuum, and not part of an over-arching cinematic universe.
"Lightyear" is now the 26 feature animated film to come out of Pixar Studios. The brand still represents the cream of the crop when it comes to animation, and while many of its titles have lived up to the reputation in both style and story, some have not...and when a Pixar movie doesn't land, it has quite often been a sequel or a spin-off (while Toy Story 2, 3 and 4 all delivered, many other sequels - like the Cars movies, "Finding Dory" or "Monsters University," have not).
"Lightyear" is the first feature-film to be spun-off of the original Pixar gem, "Toy Story." It's apparently the movie that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy in the first place (which is why this Buzz is voiced by Captain America himself, Chris Evans, and not Tim Allen who has voiced every toy incarnation of the space-travelling hero). It's a beautifully-rendered piece of animation that once again pushes animation forward, which is a stellar feat considering that it feels at this point like we've seen it all. But unlike several of Pixar's best films that contain deeper meaning, or powerful messages for kids and grown-ups alike, "Lightyear" is a bit muddled and "light" on nuance.
Still, as space adventures go, "Lightyear" is a crowd-pleaser, and probably lands somewhere in the upper-middle of the Pixar pack of films.
Director Joseph Kosinski is flying high in Hollywood right now, with the much-needed, record-breaking success of his film "Top Gun: Maverick" now on his resumé. His follow-up film, "Spiderhead" (streaming on Netflix on 6/17) will likely be overlooked, as it should, when studios consider him for future projects, as it seems there was no energy left to give to this mildly clever, but mostly banal, dud of a film following how much he was able to pack in to "Top Gun: Maverick."
The "Jurassic Park" saga that began back in 1993 finally (and thankfully) limps to its final resting place with its sixth and final chapter, "Jurassic World Dominion."
Gone is the wonderment, the magic of Spielberg's original blockbuster, which in my eyes remains a ground-shattering, masterpiece of popcorn cinema. "Jurassic World Dominion" reduces this franchise to a bland whirlwind of CG, barely containing any remnant of DNA (pun intended) from that first "Jurassic Park" film.
It's fast-paced but bland, familiar but unrecognizable. The intelligence behind the eyes of the franchise is gone, and it's been dumbed-down to swim in the same gene pool as a "Transformers" movie (not a compliment).
If you liked the last, nearly unwatchable mess of a film, "Fallen Kingdom," then you may not mind "Jurassic World Dominion." However, a "Jurassic" film is not supposed to be your average action movie. The bar was set high from the very start, and the audience frankly deserves more, having now been served - in my estimation - four terrible follow-ups with one diamond buried in the middle (I had lots of love for "Jurassic World," but not much for any of the other Jurassic movies since the original).
Yep, I said it: "Top Gun: Maverick" has the chops to compete for the Best Picture of 2022.
And why wouldn't it be considered? Sure, it's not even June and most "award-worthy" films don't see release until the Fall season. Action-blockbusters are not often - if ever - remembered at year's end.
But I think this one has what it takes. This is as thrilling and fun as movies get, folks. "Top Gun: Maverick" pushes the envelope of filmmaking in ways that no other films have, truly. Tom Cruise is in a league of his own when it comes to Hollywood superstars, and he shows here - even as he approaches age 60 - that there is nobody who can command the screen quite like he can, with just a look or that iconic smile.
If not Best Picture, it will surely be recognized in a slew of technical categories, from the breath-taking cinematography, to the score, to the sound that puts you right there in the cockpit.
But it also deserves a look for Best Picture.
In an age of cinema where new ideas seem few and far between, and massive corporate conglomerates scour over their film library to find lost franchises to squeeze some final drops of blood out of, "Top Gun: Maverick" strikes the perfect balance between the old and the new. It dabbles in nostalgia without relying on it. It takes the spirit of the first beloved film and instead of giving us the same motions as before, it expands the story and its characters. It takes a few chances. It pushes the limits. Like Maverick, the film isn't reckless, it just is willing to do whatever is necessary to be the best.
Those in search of some real answers following the recent string of Marvel's Disney+ series, will find "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" ("DSITMOM") to be a maddening experience indeed.
But as a sheer piece of blockbuster entertainment, this film delivers, with a wild, rapid pace and some of the best visuals ever created thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). There are clearly some geniuses that work for Marvel Studios...but their collective effort seems unable to keep the MCU continuity from tangling itself up in giant knots, resulting in a truly dizzying - and increasingly tiring - exercise for the loyal viewers to take part in.
(Plot Spoilers to follow...you've been warned!)
Filmmaker Robert Eggers is one hell of auteur, whose mastery of his craft can no longer be ignored. On the heels of his last two films, 2015's "The Witch" and 2019's "The Lighthouse," he thrusts "The Northman" upon us. It doesn't just cut to the bone, it tears apart flesh, splatters blood in our faces and spits in our eye.
And while "The Northman" is an enchanting work of cinema and Eggers' most effective achievement yet, it reveals another through-line of with his work. All three of these films sacrifice story, narrative and cohesiveness, in favor of mood, authenticity and rawness. In other words, each are dazzling movies but all three - "The Northman" included - are so poetic and visceral that they don't connect in the way that they perhaps should.
Even still, you have to respect a movie - and a filmmaker - who has the audacity to thrust a movie upon us with such gore and violence, matched with grace and beauty. "The Northman" is at once a blunt object, pummeling us with brutality, and it's sharp like a knife, slicing through what is really a generic revenge tale, to reveal some ugly truths about our humanity and what lies beneath the surface.
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