Writer/Director Riley Stearns really made a real splash with the criminally underrated and underseen 2019 black-comedy, "The Art of Self-Defense" (read my review of that film here). He follows it up with "Dual," another film that exists in the same darkly comedic vein that his previous work did, but this one doesn't quite resonate nearly as much.
"Dual" is a film that introduces a very compelling concept, but veers well off course. By the time it tries to right the ship, it's too far gone for us to care.
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.
Fans are being asked to plug back into The Matrix franchise, nearly 20 years since the last two installments, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions" hit theaters just a few months apart back in 2003. The love story of Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) was at the heart of this ground-breaking film saga that mixed action with high-concept sci-fi and stunning visuals, returning over 1 billion (with a "b") at the box office for the trilogy.
Lana Wachowski returns to the franchise (sans her usual partner, sister Lilly) to give us a fourth chapter, "The Matrix Resurrections," a decidedly uneven but wildly ambitious return to the world of rogue programs, slow-motion bullets, steam-punk aesthetics, unabashed ass-kicking and endless sci-fi mumbo-jumbo. Its high-aiming philosophy works better than its action set pieces, but ultimately this is a mixed-bag reboot whose main themes get buried under a mountain of code.
There is low-brow science-fiction ("Starship Troopers" and similar) and then there is more intellectually-challenging high-brow science-fiction (the recent "Ex Machina" or "Possessor" comes to mind).
"Swan Song" is a fantastic, thoughtful, emotionally-charged drama dealing with cloning, where it asks a simple question: If you could spare your loved ones from the hurt of ever losing you or experiencing any grief, what would you be willing to sacrifice?
With great power (i.e. advanced knowledge of what happens) comes great responsibility (like not to reveal even the slightest spoiler).
Here's what I CAN say: "Spider-Man: No Way Home" is finally hitting theaters...it is the third full-length Spider-Man film featuring Tom Holland as Peter Parker...and it picks up where things left off at the very end of "Spider-Man: Far From Home," with the world discovering the real identity of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
***NO SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED IN THIS REVIEW, OTHER THAN WHAT IS SHOWN IN THE ALREADY RELEASED TRAILERS FOR THE FILM***
It may include the greatest ensemble cast of A-Listers and talent that you'll ever see: Meryl Streep. Jennifer Lawrence. Leonardo DiCaprio. Jonah Hill. Timothée Chalamet. Mark Rylance. Ariana Grande. Ron Perlman. Rob Morgan. Cate Blanchett. Tyler Perry. Melanie Lynskey. Himesh Patel. And even Kid Cudi.
It's very easy to get hypnotized by their brilliance, and swept in on the sheer star-power of those sharing the screen together. "Don't Look Up" is a brash and super-funny political satire from the mind of Adam McKay, director of "Vice" and "The Big Short" in recent years, not to mention his iconic films with his old business partner Will Ferrell, like the two "Anchorman" movies, "Step Brothers," "Talladega Nights" and "The Other Guys."
But for all it gets right, it's also a bit of a mess, with way too much jammed into its over-long run time (2 hours and 18 minutes). Still, it's maybe the best comedy of the year, and could yield a few acting nominations as well this awards season, especially for Leonardo DiCaprio, who is given a big "Network"-level monologue at one point that could land him an Oscar on the strength of that one scene alone.
Casting the iconic Tom Hanks as the only human in a film feels like it's been done before...and that's because it has, back in 2000 with the film "Cast Away." That film found Hanks stranded and all alone on a deserted island, with inanimate friend Wilson the Volleyball his only companion.
In "Finch," Hanks finds himself alone again, this time on a deserted planet following some deadly solar flares that he happened to survive, and instead of talking to a volleyball this time around, he has a trusty dog - and an intelligent robot - at his side.
The comparisons to "Cast Away" are inevitable, but "Finch" is far less a complete film. It doesn't really land any of the lofty ideals it raises, and it's so slight that even though we're at world's end, the stakes never seem too high.
Of the many Marvel properties that have been translated into movies, Venom has by far been the worst adaptation. His cool look jumps off of the page, but on screen - when added with his ridiculous voice - Venom has thus far been a mess. He's neither funny nor scary, and he's one of the least compelling comic book characters going.
Suffice it to say, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is a catastrophe from head-to-toe...it's a tonal nightmare featuring characters with very little depth and given very little to do. The first "Venom" film was a success (the comic book character, created by Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie, is among the most popular of all the Marvel characters since first appearing in 1988), which means that this sequel was inevitable, but "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to "superhero" movies, let alone Marvel films.
Are there any comedies that movie studios are willing to green-light anymore, that don't star Ryan Reynolds?
Since his starring role in 2016's "Deadpool," Reynolds has been one of the hottest comedic commodities in Hollywood. But is the Ryan Reyn-aissance starting to over stay its welcome? One might begin to think so, judging by his latest romp.
"Free Guy" is part "The Truman Show," part "The Matrix" and part "Groundhog Day," with not even one pixel of the same creative spark or ingenuity of any of these films. It aims low and succeeds in hitting its target, I guess, but with a little care, "Free Guy" could have been so much more.
It's not all "Black Widow"'s fault. This long-awaited Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) feature film was supposed to have reached theaters back in May of 2020, but well...you know. Had there not been a pandemic, this movie would have seen release just under one year after the Phase Three final chapter, "Avengers: Endgame." And while the additional year of waiting has perhaps allowed us to enjoy the Marvel Disney+ TV shows a bit more ("WandaVision," "The Falcon and Winter Soldier" and nearly all of "Loki"), most Marvel fans are getting increasingly impatient as they await some forward traction with the over-arching story.
And while "Black Widow" is supposedly the first feature-film of Marvel's Phase Four, it doesn't feel like it. It does finally give Scarlett Johansson's beloved Black Widow character time to shine, a scene-stealer who has to this point just been a team player, appearing throughout other hero's films as one of two (along with Hawkeye) human Avenger members. But her new stand-alone film feels like it could have been released five, or seven years ago...a good but not great Marvel film that feels disappointing only because fans - I'm assuming - are chomping at the bit for things to move on from "Endgame."
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