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.
It was Cinderella, not Pinocchio, who once told us, "A wish is a dream your heart makes." "Cinderella" - released back in 1950 (!!!) - came to us back in an era of experimentation, unbridled creativity and endless wonder, led by the American pioneer, Walt Disney.
It was a different time, then. 10 years prior to Cinderella giving us that famous line, we had been given "Pinocchio." Released in 1940, it was just the second full-feature animated film from Disney (coming three years after "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"), and it was a Disney-fied version of a classic fairy tale, mixed with important life lessons for the kiddos (a blueprint the studio would use for the next century) and featuring an iconic score and soundtrack that, to this day, can still evoke emotion from anyone who has even accidentally brushed up against anything Disney (and whom among us hasn't?). "When You Wish Upon A Star" is the melody that defines Disney, and has become their unofficial, official company slogan.
With the 2022 live-action re-make of "Pinocchio," I'm not quite sure what was wished upon exactly, and I'm not quite sure that that wish originated in the heart. It seems to me that this was more of a "directive" than a wish, from a corporate entity that holds nothing sacred. I can just picture current Disney CEO, Bob Chapek, humming to that classic Cinderella melody, "A live-action re-make is a dream my bank account makes."
On the heels of live-action versions of "The Jungle Book," "The Lion King," "Aladdin," "Cinderella," "101 Dalmatians" and "Dumbo," we get the wish-fulfillment of a live-action "Pinocchio," a wish that no one ever has made or asked for, but we all knew was inevitable. It's not so much "bad" as it is unnecessary, and it once again has audiences asking: Why?
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.
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).
It will take a bit of nuance to understand my take on the new "Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers" movie (coming to Disney+ on Friday, May 20th).
Is this new movie funny? Oh absolutely (my wife and I actually had to stop the screener at one point during a "terrible rap" that the characters were doing, because we were laughing so hard). So if you're looking for laughs and laughs alone, this one might be for you.
But whatever it is, this is not a "Chip n Dale: Rescue Rangers" movie, even if it proclaims to be. Those are not the characters that many 90s kids fell in love with, and in fact, there is nothing at all recognizable from the TV show's spirit or overall vibe. And if you were a fan of Chip n Dale prior to the "Rescue Rangers," (the characters appeared in just 23 animated shorts, debuting in 1943 and continuing into the mid 1950s), well, that history is completely and utterly discarded.
No, this version is a satire aimed squarely at adults, albeit adults that grew up watching the TV show (debuting back in 1989, its three-season run from 1990-1993 as part of Disney's afternoon line-up was how most Gen-Xers came to know of it). At it's core, it's a generic buddy-comedy, with story beats so worn-out that its almost shocking that this was the direction the filmmakers decided to go in. It's dressed up WONDERFULLY with Easter Eggs galore, which make the time spent in this world a fun-filled trip down memory lane for those with eagle-eyes or access to a pause button...
...and yet, it's as hollow as some of the uncanny-valley characters that we're introduced to.
And call it what you will, but it's DEFINITELY not a movie about the Rescue Rangers, not the ones that we've come to know and love, nor is it about those two cuddly and fast-talking anamorphic chipmunk brothers that many of us grew up with.
That makes it a disappointment.
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.
Squandering a premise that seems ripe for fun and laughter, "The Bad Guys" is about as bad as you can get.
Yes, kids for the most part will watch anything. But don't they - and we adults - deserve more than uninspired, generic dreck?
Review: 'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore' a continuation of the worst film franchise spin-off maybe ever
If you live, eat and breathe Harry Potter, I still can't fathom a world where you would accept the "Fantastic Beasts" franchise as worthy of sharing the same film universe. Where the original Potter films were full of magic - both literally and figuratively speaking - the "Fantastic Beasts" film have been a flimsy rip-off since the get-go.
The cash-grab continues with the third film in the series, "The Secrets of Dumbledore," a film that not only doesn't live up to its title (what secrets???), but once again fails to hold a floating candle to any of the original Potter films.
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