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.
Where to begin? Is there even a "beginning" or an "end," or are we all just in a meaningless construct of space and time? How would my life change if the next word I typed was fas;fljasdlfkjaetpieejpwaoifqwpeof. Did I just smash away at my keyboard for no reason or did that somehow, someway divert the course of my life? Is there an alternate reality where I started this review a different way, didn't review the film at all, or wasn't able to type it because I was a rock or perhaps my hands were made out of hot dogs?
Believe it or not, these are all relevant questions in the audaciously bonkers new sci-fi/action/adventure multi-verse film, "Everything Everywhere All At Once," the most wildly ambitious film since 2012's "Cloud Atlas." And for those that know me, this is the highest form of praise, being that "Cloud Atlas" ranked as my #2 best film of the past decade.
And although I highly recommend "Everything Everywhere All At Once" for its unbridled imagination, its deftness in conveying complicated exposition, its bold vision and its odd yet stellar cast, the film's title could also be used to describe it's narrative focus. It's high-art packaged as a surprisingly accessible popcorn blockbuster, and yet it's excessively mind-numbing.
In other words, it's messiness is it's strength AND its weakness, which I guess is only fitting.
To say that the first "Sonic the Hedgehog" film is the best video game movie of all-time might seem slight...after all, movies based on video games have not exactly had a great track record (only five of the 49 video game films ranked on RottenTomatoes have a "Fresh" rating, and even those are questionable choices). But it actually was a surprisingly delightful film, made even more saleable with the pitch-perfect casting choice of Jim Carrey as the evil Dr. Robotnik.
We all went into the first Sonic film with the lowest of low expectations...not just because it was another video game movie, but there was the whole backlash over how the original version of Sonic was rendered (when an image was released, fans revolted, and Paramount Pictures went back and redesigned Sonic as the version we have now). But it not only was a - dare I say - GOOD family adventure, with some heart to boot, it was a tremendous box office success, grossing nearly 320 million bucks worldwide and setting up the inevitable sequel, which we are getting now.
Sadly, all momentum that the first film created comes to a screeching, disappointing halt in "Sonic the Hedgehog 2." Instead of feeling like a real box office underdog - "the little hedgehog that could" - the sequel comes in full of itself, with an unearned confidence, and dying on the hill that somehow "more is more." At an incredibly baffling 2 hours and 2 minutes, a bevy of new, uninteresting characters and a some unfathomably lame subplots, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" carries the weight of the franchise on its shoulders, and is crushed beneath the burden.
Originally slated to hit theaters in July of 2020, the pandemic had other plans for "Morbius." Nearly two years and several more schedule-shifts later, and the newest Marvel movie has finally arrived, but with more of a thud than many were hoping for.
"The Lost City" is the sort of romantic-adventure-comedy that seems to have been missing from the movie landscape in recent years. Movies like "Romancing the Stone," "Jewel of the Nile" and the "Allan Quatermain" films of the 1980s are channeled for "The Lost City," a movie that just barely works, powered by a star firing on all of her charismatic cylinders.
Time travel films invite scrutiny, perhaps more than any other genre of film. One staple that nearly EVERY time-travel story always adheres to is that you are not to run into your past self. We all know this is a HUGE time-travelling no-no. To do so throws things way out of whack and could in fact fold the time-space continuum into itself, creating a paradoxical implosion that would end the universe as we know it. Or something like that, typically.
"The Adam Project" has a clever take: What if we just don't think so hard about all that time-travel logic? What if we just went on an adventure? It seems simple (and perhaps blasphemous to the diehard sci-fi geek), but throwing logic out the window would allow a person to not only run into their former self, but actually talk, chat, hang-out and even save the world together along with their mini-me.
That's the underlying premise of "The Adam Project," a film that by no means is a "good film," yet it has enough clever dialogue and meaningful moments buried within it to qualify as a passable, family-friendly time-travelling adventure...one that I'd bet will land successfully with kids and adults alike.
It occurred to me while watching "The Batman" that it doesn't really matter where the movie starts, where it ends, or what timeline it is adhering to. In some ways, I'd be totally OK with the character of Batman being treated somewhat like James Bond...each Bond movie is its own adventure, perhaps loosely connected to others or perhaps every once in a while acting as direct sequels to previous films. Different actors can portray the iconic character, with a parade of directors putting their unique spin on the franchise each go-around. As long as the familiar "musts" are included - the uttering of "Bond. James Bond," for example - each movie can push the envelope or tell its own story.
In many ways, Batman is even more suited for this sort of approach than James Bond or maybe any other character in film history. There are so many takes on the character in the comic book, from the "Zap! Boom! Pow" bright and corny 70s version to the dark and brooding "Dark Knight" popularized by Frank Miller in the early 1980s. The Rogues Gallery of iconic villains can act as a never-ending spring of antagonists for our hero, and there are enough side characters in the DC Universe to keep things going for another couple generations.
In that spirit, "The Batman" is as good as a Batman movie has ever been, or possibly ever can be. It might be jarring at first to accept yet another version of this character, in a previously unvisited timeline with yet another actor under the bat cowl, but if you accept this like a Bond film, where this movie isn't meant to connect to anything else and is simply a Batman story, then you will be floored by how effective this rendition can be.
It's no secret that video games have been done dirty on the big-screen over the years. Of them all (and I mean ALL), only "Sonic the Hedgehog" was able to make the jump in a way that not only honored the source material and became a fun cinematic experience. In a recent RottenTomatoes article, of 48 video game movies on the site, only FOUR of them had a "Fresh" rating (and three of those are quite questionable if you ask me).
"Uncharted" is the latest video game to take the plunge, and on the surface it seems to have a lot going for it. First, it's one of the highest-selling video games of all-time, having shipped more than 41 million units. It has a wealth of characters and stories to draw from, with four "main" games and a whole slate of spin-offs, books and comics. Since the game itself was an innovation in the way of cinematic story-telling, many have long thought that it was one of the most adaptable video games ever. Many games popularized the cinematic "cut scene" in-between side-scrolling video game action, but "Uncharted" WAS basically a playable extended cut-scene, where the action and the gameplay seamlessly melted into each other making for a unique and thrilling gaming experience.
I am tempted to just create a "Liam Neeson Movie" review template, where I could save my self time and trouble by simply inserting Liam's character name, occupation and co-stars into the review.
This Academy Award nominated actor seems completely content to fill his current schedule with one throw-away action flick after another. "Cold Pursuit." "The Commuter." "Honest Thief." "The Marksman." "The Ice Road." And now "Blacklight." All of them trying to recreate the success of Neeson's 2008 film "Taken," but none of them sticking the landing.
Apparently there is still a market for action thrillers starring a nearly 70-year-old man, and if any of these other aforementioned movies were up your alley, then most likely you'll also approve of "Blacklight."
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