Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi is forced to confront his past after being drawn into the Ten Rings organization, led by his father who trained him to become a deadly Kung Fu master from the day he was born.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings achieves the difficult task a new hero to an already enormous cinematic universe while still feeling as exciting and unpredictable as some of the past outings. The settings, characters and conflict are inviting, especially the vigorous execution from director Destin Daniel Cretton (whose previous movies Short Term 12 and Just Mercy I highly recommend). The action is dynamic with scale that ranges from martial arts on a bus to fantastical battles with ancient superpowers, and sets that range from San Francisco to China. The film clearly took inspiration from the practical martial arts days of Jackie Chan, and the passionate fights of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The music, including the excellent score and solid hip-hop soundtrack choices, also adds a lot to the film’s pace and globe-trotting adventure, reminiscent of the modern, colorful nature of Black Panther that also brought elements of ancient culture to its production design. And similar to that film’s effect on black representation and culture, Shang-Chi marks the first time an Asian main character gets their due in an action movie of this proportion, but there are badasses alongside the hero as well, including strong women in power whose place in the fight is never questioned. Simu Liu immediately fits perfectly into the roster of MCU heroes, delivering a well-rounded hero who’s journey you love to follow along. Liu excellently balances charisma and heart that makes you embrace Shang-Chi in a humanly way, with the pain and difficult decisions that comes with the character’s traumatic past. The family dynamic elevates the conflict and Tony Leung’s portrayal of his power-hungry father is ruthless, a character who’s mere presence makes you feel fear and distrust, yet you see his perspective that sends him on this destructive path that sees many hurt. Awkwafina, who’s worked magic almost every time she’s in front of the screen, is not just wonderful comic relief but a loving best friend whose chemistry with Liu makes the runtime interesting. Michelle Yeoh also adds plenty to the film in a key role in the film.

With every Marvel movie, the studio proves that they can reach wide audiences with their large budgets and marketing, but more than that, their heart and entertainment, and this movie has plenty. It’s also helpful that unlike Black Widow, this movie is set in the present day chronologically — so stay free of spoilers because Marvel loves throwing in some surprises, and boy do they pay off! Though a few moments of green screen are noticable and some of the exposition has tedious moments, Shang-Chi’s fast paced adventure of self-discovery, with emotional stakes and action that mixes modern and mythical feelings, presents a fun mix of action, comedy and emotion with great sound editing, fantasy and sets in addition to likable protagonists and formidable foes. By the end I felt on the edge of my seat, unsure of what will happen to the characters because of the stakes and surprises that are presented. Marvel once again brings theater-worthy fun to the screen that all ages can love and eventually rewatch along with the rest of their library.

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Free Guy

Guy, a background character in a videogame called Free City, learns the truth about his existence and must race against time to save his world and reclaim his free will.

It seems that with Free Guy, Ryan Reynolds has finally found a movie that lives up to his comedic skills outside of the Deadpool franchise. Reynolds makes the movie infinitely better with his exaggerated reactions, unpredictable and irreverent self-awareness and pop culture analogies, as well as a sense of purity to his character that isn’t seen in his raunchier, more morally ambiguous portrayal of Deadpool. Meanwhile, this movie has a PG-13 rating yet this movie finds its audience and the humor lands most of the time. He has plenty of charisma and humor that carries the story and action but also not overkill where it compromises his character development. Jodie Comer is also wonderful as a female badass who isn’t a traditional “female sidekick and love interest to the male lead”, yet she’s actually the protagonist of the story as much as Reynolds in the best way. Joe Keery also has much time to shine, he’s very famous as Steve in Stranger Things, and just as lovable here. Lil Rel Howery is excellent comedic relief and best friend material everywhere he appears, and Taika Waititi takes a role that in the script would’ve looked incredibly cheesy and hard to stand, and with his delivery, makes the part an irresistible, hilarious part that was perfect for him. I had the same feeling with Reynolds, the role would’ve been much worse with another A-list funny action star.

Reynolds producing and starring gives the movie the perfect opportunity to be meta and let loose on pop culture references and self-aware jokes. Unlike Space Jam: A New Legacy, however, it never descends into immaturity and nonsense, instead embracing its stars talents instead of overly relying on effects. It also takes time to comment on the violent nature of Grand Theft Auto and similar videogames, as well as our obsession with hyperreality and simulated reality like Ready Player One did. The movie’s heartfelt side also asks us to use our humanity for empathy and connecting with other humans more. Believe me, it sounds cheesy but it’s delivered with plenty of heart, as well as themes about free will, the potential of AI, and being more than what people expect of you. The depiction of the world inside the videogame is colorful and lively and feels like a great live-action companion to Wreck-It Ralph, making you think about what such a world would be like in live-action, striking the perfect balance between letting the audience indulge in the silliness but always retaining heart and fun. The movie sometimes hits similar beats to other mainstream other action comedies, and you may be reminded of elements of similar films but it never lets the familiarity get the best of it. Free Guy flourishes when utilizing the loose, free-spirited edge to the humor, story, and characters, including hilarious editing and some unforgettable cameos that had my audience hysterical in the theater and are too brilliant to spoil. While it’s not a must-watch, it’s a great theater experience that makes the best of its potential and talents. It’s especially great to watch Ryan Reynolds and crew have a clearly awesome time starring in and making this entertaining movie that put a smile on my face and never sacrifices the insane visuals for a good story and time that like Deadpool, knows it’s very out there but is always on the audience’s side and never gets too cheesy for its own good.

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The Suicide Squad

Supervillains Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker and many other of the most notorious villains from the DC Universe are recruited by Amanda Waller to join a mission to liberate the South American island of Corto Maltese from a murderous regime that’s conducting shady experiments. In, exchange the villains get 10 years off their prison sentences if they successfully complete the mission, but if they fail, they’re dead.

DC’s ambitious 2016 endeavor Suicide Squad was a massive failure and disappointment that’s easily at the bottom of the DC Extended Universe ranking when discussing quality. This new sequel, written and directed by James Gunn, the man behind the Guardians of the Galaxy films, is without a doubt at the top of that ranking. The Suicide Squad does its brilliant concept justice this time, throwing away everything that didn’t work about the original and acting as a hilarious, goofy, energetic action-packed wonder that stands beautifully on its own. While the first film aimed to be goofy and comedic, it still had this dark, gritty edge to it which it struggled to balance with a PG-13 rating and fantastical, world-ending conflicts. This movie is colorful and indulges in the goofiness without ever taking itself seriously, yet the characters and story hit home further. The action set pieces are memorable and the R rating helps this movie fully realize its potential with balls-to-the-wall, cartoonish violence that fits with the twisted nature of the characters while still injecting humor and fun through the R rated violence and jokes. The movie also diverges from many superhero movie tropes by focusing less on the huge fantastical concepts and letting you know that nobody is safe.

The characters in this film are even sillier than in the first movie, and some even viler, but the movie makes them incredibly fun and lively to watch, even when there’s carnage to behold. There’s no way you can get enough of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn — she adds so much to the movie and both this and Birds of Prey have made the style as insane as her, to make her this psychotic yet somehow lovable and exciting protagonist in the most awesome way. However, the other cast members’ work rival hers here. Idris Elba can do no wrong as Bloodsport and he has some great banter with John Cena’s Peacemaker — they’re both very foul people but have some of the best moments of the movie. Joel Kinnaman also has some memorable moments this time as Rick Flag, and Viola Davis plays the menacing Amanda Waller who is trying to make the Suicide Squad do some good but may be more hatable than all the actual criminals in the film — which is a testament to Davis’ terrific casting and presence. A standout has to be Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melchior who gives the movie lots of heart and empathy. Like I said before, the movie continuously embraces the ridiculousness it presents without trying to put a “sane” lens onto it, as shown with wild concepts like characters named Polka-Dot Man and King Shark (a talking shark voiced by Sylvester Stallone). James Gunn’s direction adds a twisted comedy yet so much care for the story and the people in it while not trying to contribute to the bigger DC universe with forced sequel setups which we’ve seen plenty of lately. From the eye-popping action set pieces to the daring style to the standalone nature of the story, it stands out not just as a great comic book movie but as a great movie, period.

The Suicide Squad shows what the DC universe can do when it gives filmmakers full creative freedom and don’t take themselves too seriously. Even with other R-rated superhero comedies like Deadpool around, The Suicide Squad feels really fresh and with the success of Joker and the entertaining Birds of Prey, DC has been figuring out how to make some gems that stand well on their own while differentiating themselves from Marvel and other superhero iterations.

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Black Widow

Set in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Natasha Romanoff, on the run from the law, encounters friends and enemies from her past as she confronts her dark origins.

With the return of theaters, it’s so exciting to see a Marvel movie again on the big screen, a whole two years after the last one, Spider-Man: Far From Home. The action, set around the globe from Cuba to Budapest, is exciting and more grounded than other MCU films. It focuses less on superhuman or fantastical abilities and more on the grit and hand-to-hand combat, along the lines of spy films like Jason Bourne and Atomic Blonde. The fights have lots of impact and feel nail-biting — there’s only a few weird moments of slo-mo that weren’t needed. Scarlett Johansson never lets us forget why she’s such a beloved actress and Avenger, and Natasha’s spirit is ever present as personal revelations about her surface. It’s really great to see her front and center, headlining her own film, but it feels like it should’ve been released back in 2017, in between the films it was set. In a cinematic universe all about bringing in connections from past films and setting up future ones, it feels weird to ask the audience to dial their brain back only a few years to an era we already passed where films like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther are set. What requires even more suspension of disbelief is the fact that we know where Natasha’s journey leads afterwards in Infinity War, and ultimately ends in Endgame. However, that doesn’t completely sink the film’s quality and consistent enjoyment factor, from the get-go with an exciting opening action scene. The visuals consistently stand out, which was enhanced for me by the 3D experience, and the pacing is also strong for a film that’s 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Florence Pugh is the highlight of the film, bringing her fantastic acting chops to the emotion and heart of the film, and shares some wonderful scenes with Johansson as well as David Harbour and Rachel Weisz, who form Nat’s makeshift family. Pugh and Harbour bring their already respected reputations with them, but reinvent themselves with memorable, humorous and heartfelt roles, though Weisz is worth mentioning too. My main issues are mostly minor, but the themes aren’t often as emphasized as in other MCU films, which is a shame, and the progression of the plot isn’t as strong either. It isn’t Black Widow’s best appearance, don’t go in expecting The Winter Soldier, Civil War or Endgame, but better late than never to have her as the lead in her own film. The villain are also very uninteresting, and though he does the job to motivate our hero, Ray Winstone’s performance is very one-dimensional. His sidekick, however, Taskmaster, is a very intimidating presence who’s great to watch. It’s overall not top-tier Marvel material, but still a satisfying standalone film that utilizes its tone, action set pieces, and cast well, and worth the theatrical experience, as always, stay seated for the credits and enjoy and intriguing post-credits scene.

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Luca

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Luca shares an adventurous summer with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water’s surface.

Luca proves that Pixar’s stories are always rooted in family appeal, charm, and emotional truth. Though it’s not as revelatory as Inside Out, Coco, and Soul, it would be unfair to dismiss it solely for that reason. It provides a sweet story about differences and compassion, though that may be the main aspect that draws similarities to other animated films like Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid, especially the idea of a young character wanting to leave the nest to the disapproval of an overprotective parent. The strongest aspect of the story is the innocence of the main characters, such as their friendships, heart, and aspirations. The purity of childhood is beautifully depicted and draws parallels to the feels of old Italian cinema. Jacob Tremblay and Jack Dylan Grazer deliver great voice performances and their parts’ friendship beautifully anchors the story. Maya Rudolph, who was also wonderful in the 2021 Netflix animated film The Mitchells vs the Machines, seems to never do wrong and here plays Luca’s sea creature mother. Be on the lookout for a special voice cameo in the first act from a beloved star that you may or may not miss. The characters are ones to root for, and their wonder and awe of the world around them is such a fun part. Whenever Luca must face his fears, he goes “Silenzio, Bruno!” to silence the voice inside of him that tells him he can’t, a relatable message for all of his. The animation of the Italian settings is terrific, although the character designs feel more 2-dimensional than Pixar’s previous films. The musical score by Dan Romer is the highlight of the productional values and even warrants an Oscar nomination if you ask me. The movie keeps bringing new situations, sometimes obstacles they must face and sometimes humor — both situations and details off to the side that will make you laugh. Ultimately at all culminates in another heartwarming story that feels exactly like what we all need right now — no matter your age — presenting many themes to children in a positive light that won’t ever feel exclusively for kids either, as Pixar excels at making stories that fit every audience’s desires without exception.

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F9

Dominic Toretto is leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, little Brian, but a new threat will force Dom to confront the sins of his past to save those he loves most. His crew joins together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered: a man who also happens to be Dom’s forsaken brother, Jakob.

F9 will fulfill the fans and audience’s expectations of adrenaline-pumping, large-scale action the franchise delivers. But is it enough this time around? The answer is — the movie is best when focused on the action set pieces and excitement, but the theatrical experience is strictly needed. And the Fast & Furious saga was built just for that. Justin Lin, who directs for the franchise for the fifth time, understands the massive grandeur necessary to experience the action. He directs expensive, impressive stunts that will get you excited — when you don’t think about how they obey the laws of physics. He also brings back the comedic, irreverent sense these films need which I don’t think Hobbs & Shaw managed to nail without becoming too parodical. The comic relief in this series has always been Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris as Roman and Tej and they give so much to this movie with their humorous banter. However, it’s the villains that bring the fun to a halt. Charlize Theron, who’s normally one of my favorite actors, is terrible once again as Cipher, but at least in the last one she was imposing and raised the stakes — here she does almost nothing. John Cena’s performance also didn’t work for me — and neither did lots of the supporting cast shoehorned in from previous films. The villains’ plans and objectives are also boring and not treated with enough care for the audience to even feel like there is a real possibility of danger. Tej and Roman even comment on the fact that after all they’ve been through in these films, they feel “invincible”. And whenever the movie tries to connect to predecessors and tie up “loose” ends with exposition, it feels incredibly heavy-handed and unfitting, and often just there as fan service, especially a certain character who is brought back. This excessive use of flashbacks feels like a pause in the story rather than world-building as the movie believes it is.

F9 continues the growing expansion of the series which started as films about street racing into what they are now, enormous, expensive superhero movies. Logic has been thrown out the window for a lot of the action sequences in this movie, but Lin treads the line between practicality and splendor to keep the audience there with the nail-biting and excitement he wants to deliver. And as said before, the comedy is very important here and he handles that well too. Whenever the script inevitably takes itself seriously at times, though, with big twists and tiring cliches, it becomes a checklist of a formula that the series keeps repeating. The franchise’s reputation has given fans room to laugh both with and at the story, but that’s only excusable with a series that has evolved so expeditiously without truly alienating any demographic of moviegoers. The first 30 minutes are genuinely great and the action gets the audience going and laughing, and the loud action throughout will get you excited, it’s just the series’ character development that feels like it’s given up on truly reinventing the wheel. After all, the saga is notorious for Vin Diesel’s “family” mottos. Although its mostly what you’d expect from this franchise, perhaps for the Fast Saga, that may as well be enough — especially when the scale keeps aiming higher and in a consistent direction that graps onto what its audiences want from an enormous, irreverent theatrical experience like this.

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Cruella

Cruella dives into the origins of the infamous 101 Dalmatians antagonist. Emma Stone is seriously great as the lead and another reason to praise the actress as well as the seemingly impeccable casting directors at Disney. Her performance is charming, unpredictable, and twisted. Though she is notoriously an insane criminal and dog-killer, she is likable in comparison to the other big Emma of the film. Emma Thompson plays a ruthless, egomaniacal fashion designer whose absolutely repulsive without a single redeeming quality. Her repugnance reminded me of Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, another evil, sadistic, fashion designer. Thompson portrays this narcissism and wickedness well, and the movie does a mostly good job, aside from a few lines, keeping her out of cartoonish territory. The relationship between the Emmas onscreen is easily a gripping anchor for the film’s story. Two other standouts are Cruella’s loyal surrogate brothers and sidekicks, played by Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser. My favorite was especially Hauser, who is much more comedic (and British) than his other popular turns in films like I, Tonya, Richard Jewell and Da 5 Bloods, and nails every moment he’s on screen. As a fan of his, I was especially glad to see him be in a film with a wide audience like a Disney film.

Cruella‘s script manages to, for most of the runtime, distance itself from the famous story it’s inspired by, despite a few nods and a shoehorned post-credits scene thrown in for the Disney hardcore fans. It feels very much like a Craig Gillespie movie — like his previous film I, Tonya, it’s a fast-paced chronicle of a morally ambiguous woman’s journey into such obscurity. However, it’s the hyper-stylistic approach that’s most detrimental to the film. The soundtrack is a nonstop barrage of rock music with no room for silence or drama, with one popular rock song after the other, and the music choices being frankly on the nose and unoriginal (seriously, why do so many films use “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones?). Had the style kept some of this energy but toned it down to make scenes feel less fluffy and more dramatic for its villain, the movie would’ve resonated more. With such gorgeous production design and costumes that made me awe (and trust me, I don’t always notice beauty in costume design like I did in this film), as well as solid acting and writing, why didn’t Disney trust its audiences to stay engaged from these elements instead of throwing in popular music every second? There’s also a little too much narration for my taste, and you can tell this took inspiration from Scorsese’s hyper-style he trademarked with Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street — a style at least one big movie a year feels the urge to adapt. The movie’s script is best when it follows the psychotic nature of Cruella and her descent into darkness, which Stone wonderfully portrays and is the most intriguing part of the film. It’s also enjoyable to point out the similarities between Cruella and other popular solo movie villains like Joker and Harley Quinn (who headlined the considerably entertaining Birds of Prey), I only wish this movie embraced what worked so much about those two aforementioned films’ approach to their villains. And that’s not saying they should have gotten rid of the energy and fast pace — which does work once Estella becomes Cruella — just give the darker, more unpredictable moments of Stone’s performance room to breathe rather than be edited like a fun heist sequence from an Ocean’s Eleven movie. There’s also a few iffy moments of CGI, including the dogs and a scene involving water, that made me cringe. Cruella is entertaining, fashionable, and has fun with its concept, but feels boxed in by a soundtrack poorly edited into the film that weakens the impact of certain scenes and connections to the original IP that feel thrown in just to check boxes on a studio checklist. Those who are interested will enjoy it, as it’s certainly a good time that’s carried well by its cast, especially the insanity conveyed by Stone, but I feel like there was potential for a stronger film in the editing room.

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A Quiet Place Part II

Following the events of the predecessor, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. With both A Quiet Place and its sequel that’s now playing in theaters everywhere, John Krasinski has proven himself to be not only an awesome actor but a master filmmaker. It worries me whenever a studio greenlights a sequel to a great film that stands alone perfectly, but A Quiet Place Part II is one of the rare occasions where the sequel lives up the original, and not only that, but along with that 2018 film, is one of the best horror/thrillers of recent years. A lot of it is thanks to Krasinski’s direction and the style which made the concept and storytelling of the first film so memorable. The opening sequence is nail-biting and even though the violence is kept at a PG-13 level, the film knows where and how to scare most effectively with showing and not showing certain things. For example, we see scenes from characters’ perspectives so the aliens and action aren’t always in the frame but sometimes in the background. The cinematography and editing are great as well, but it’s the sound editing that makes the movie. It’s the small noises that make you terrified for the characters as they try to survive among creatures who can track them based on any small noise from a distance, and the sound creates its own tension without a single jump scare. The loud sound effects of the monsters contrast this excellently and make this a terrific theater experience.

Emily Blunt may be at her best in this series as a mother trying to protect her kids, including a newborn, from otherworldly threats that are a family’s worst nightmare. Cillian Murphy is also excellent as a new addition to the cast, a cynical, hopeless survivor who is changed by his time with the Abbott family. Millicent Simmonds, the deaf actress who plays the deaf daughter in the film, may be the film’s heroine as she takes on challenges courageously and delivers a stellar performance, with not only some of the most positive deaf representation I’ve ever seen in film but all around a brilliant actor and lead role. Noah Jupe, who plays the son/brother, is again excellent, and he’s proven himself with these films as well as his magnificent roles in 2019’s Ford v Ferrari and Honey Boy. And even with just a cameo, Krasinski himself makes his presence felt throughout the film, passing the courage and good-ness of his character from the last film into his children and the world of the movie. Beyond the brilliant scares, which are only strengthened by techniques such as cross-cutting that Krasinski marvelously uses to make scenes more powerful and symbolic, the film retains the heart that made its predecessor so emotional — in every frame and line, this is a movie about a monster apocalypse, but also about parenthood, family, human survival, and hope. And one can’t help but think that with a family taking back their world by venturing back into the unknown and fighting back against the apocalypse, it’s a perfect film to represent our return to theaters. I, for one, had not been to the theaters since Tenet last August, when some screens briefly reopened, and this is an impeccable choice to return to the big screen with for the thrills, sound, and amazing effects and story that will more than satisfy those who know what they’re in for, and for the shared experience we’ve been longing to have back and can finally experience for a new blockbuster once again.

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The Oscars (93rd Academy Awards) Winners

After a crazy year with movies being released in streaming and hybrid formats, the Oscars have finally happened, this time in late April! In case you missed it but want to find out who won, here you go:

Best Picture: Nomadland
Best Director: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Best Actress: Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
Best Supporting Actress: Youn Yuh-jung – Minari
Best Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Father
Best Animated Feature: Soul
Best Original Score: Soul
Best Original Song: “Fight for You” (from Judas and the Black Messiah)
Best Cinematography: Mank
Best Film Editing: Sound of Metal
Best Production Design: Mank
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Costume Design: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Best Animated Short: If Anything Happens I Love You
Best Visual Effects: Tenet
Best Sound: Sound of Metal
Best Foreign Language Film: Another Round (from Denmark)
Best Documentary Feature: My Octopus Teacher
Best Live-Action Short: Two Distant Strangers

I think for what they were given, the Oscars did a good job creating an interesting show with a more intimate space and less people than the Dolby Theater. There were a lot of great winners and milestones, including Chloe Zhao as the 1st woman of color to win Best Director and the 2nd woman to win the category. My favorite win of the night was Daniel Kaluuya who I’ve been a fan of since Get Out, and blew me away as Chairman Fred Hampton. However, I was susprised by the winners for Best Actor and Actress. The expected winners were Chadwick Boseman and Carey Mulligan who I was rooting for. Boseman delivered a magnificent final performance and not only was it my favorite lead performance, it would’ve been a terrific way to honor his legacy. Mulligan was also brilliant in the provocative and unforgettable Promising Young Woman, and I would’ve awarded her — it also wasn’t so long since Frances won in that category for the fantastic Three Billboards in 2017. McDormand has now won 3 times in that category, but won an additional time this year for producing Nomadland, a unique film experience that won the biggest award of the night! Another Round is an excellent Danish film and the director Thomas Vinterburg’s speech was the most moving of the night. However, I have to give a special shoutout to the award-winning short films — Two Distant Strangers (live-action) and If Anything Happens I Love You (animated) are available on Netflix and tackle grounded issues, but I should warn you that they are guaranteed heartbreaks and both took my breath away with their creativity and messages. My Octopus Teacher is also a wonderful documentary, and this comes from someone who normally isn’t into nature docs but this one really moved me, find it on Netflix too. Many of these terrific films that won are available on streaming services including Netflix, Amazon, HBOMax and Hulu, and I beg you not to sleep on them. Seeing new entertainment releases helped me get through this unusual time without theaters — which we’ll hopefully see the return of soon!

Academy Reveals Poster Art for 93rd Oscars - Awardsdaily - The Oscars, the  Films and everything in between.

Godzilla vs Kong

The culmination of the 4-film MonsterVerse franchise pits two of the greatest icons in motion picture history against one another – the fearsome Godzilla and the mighty Kong – with humanity caught in the balance.

This massively awaited film had plenty of promise, but ended up being a disappointment for me. What should’ve been a visually enthralling epic turned out to be a cartoonish WWE smackdown with sloppy direction and editing, and the worst writing in the franchise. The visual depth and feeling of actual destruction and danger from Godzilla: King of the Monsters is completely gone, and the visual style here is a lot less nuanced. While the storyboarding of this film must have been incredible, the CGI itself in some parts could have used some improvement to seem more seamless and epic, and a little less digital, which is odd because it had 2 years in post-production, less than its better-looking predecessor. Some cool visual moments are often ruined with silly editing choices like slo-mo and weird cuts, as well as some randomly placed rock songs that couldn’t have felt less fitting. The movie has a lighter tone than its predecessor, but unfortunately the messy editing and lackluster story aren’t willing to support that vision and maintain a style that consistently delivers.

It’s weird that a CGI giant gorilla has more emotional connection with the audience in this movie than the human characters, because that’s how I felt with Kong versus the humans in this film. And writing great characters has been a challenge for this saga before. Alexander Skarsgard is just there, and Rebecca Hall does well but her story wouldn’t have worked without her connection with this young deaf girl who communicates with Kong. Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison are solid but their story is very uninteresting. Demian Bichir plays maybe the worst character in the entire franchise, who is incredibly bland and predictable from the moment he appears. Eiza Gonzalez’s character is also very generic. While Kyle Chandler was the lead in the last film, he gets nothing to do here — he didn’t need to be a large part again, but this just adds to the underwhelming nature of the cast of great actors in this film. The one cast member who was utilized well and perfectly cast was Brian Tyree Henry, who elevates his character’s so-so writing with great comedic relief and energy. The story itself that surrounds the human and monster characters is often frustratingly cliché, with big companies conspiring around these monsters with heroes with nonexistent character development and some laughable lines of dialogue. While this is supposed to be the biggest of the franchise, it’s ironically the shortest. At only 113 minutes, it suffers from a very rushed pace that never lets the film breathe and build atmosphere and adventure. It could’ve used another 15-30 minutes. The titular fights themselves are awesome, and the choreography when Godzilla and Kong fight is very memorable. However, by the time it gets really good it feels like too little, too late, and is also short-lived because of an underwhelming and predictable climax that goes for the least emotionally rewarding or daring conclusion possible. The end of the last film also set up the idea of monsters living among humans, but that’s completely tossed aside here for far inferior storylines that have been used in so many films before. There’s also no tension present, because although there are large, exciting monster fights, the spectacle isn’t treated with enough care to build a true epic, instead feeling like a rushed cartoon that doesn’t care much about all it has to offer besides the fighting. While it may entertain those simply looking for some fulfillment on the title, it’s sad how much more this could’ve been had the movie understood the full potential it held at hand.

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