Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

One year after defeating Kingpin alongside Spider-Men from other universes, Miles Morales is visited once again by Gwen Stacy and finds himself at odds with the Spider-Society, a multiverse-protecting organization of Spider-People led by Miguel O’Hara.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a film that left an impression not only an audiences but on the animation industry with its combination of 2D and 3D style. This sequel aspires to transcend the original not just through how many animation styles it blends, but through the story, tone, atmosphere and structure it builds that may just humiliate everything from that beloved first film based on ambition alone. Though the movie tries to emulate that same comic-like spirit from the first film, there’s a deeper energy and culture to the film’s feel, including the music and mood, from the first scene, which feels like a masterful piece of storytelling even on its own. Hailee Steinfeld this time is just as much the emotional core as is Miles Morales, and she delivers a great performance as the painful choices Gwen’s had to make are revealed to the audience — the entire movie is probably one of the most mature animated films thematically and tonally I’ve ever seen. It’s still “family friendly”, but the audience is treated as much more mature and patient than most animated films would. Also a standout is Daniel Kaluuya as the rebellious, anti-authority Spider-Punk whose voice performance sticks out as much as some of the animation, not to mention Karan Soni, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez and Oscar Isaac. The villain of the Spot, voiced by Jason Schwarzman, is as silly as they get, but his nerdy voice and chaotic appearance make his sudden rise to being Miles’ greatest threat work due to that irony.

The movie’s experimentations with different animation styles throughout the multiverse can feel overwhelming at the speed the visuals are thrown at you, but it’s also wondrously imaginative to see this creation of what feels like a tribute to the audiences and the medium of animation. However, though the pacing does let the environment of the film breathe, it feels significantly slower than the first and takes a bit too long to the get to the multiverse-traveling action. That pacing also doesn’t feel like it pays off any more due to the cliffhanger ending, to tease the end of the trilogy coming out next year. It felt like they could’ve easily added a climax to make the movie feel more whole than the way it ended, even by shortening some of what had come before. That’s not to say that the movie ever has filler, but the pacing and structure feel like a jarring change from the first film. That said, it’s more than made up for by an unforgettable, stunning action scene involving a futuristic universe and a train, with the emotional stakes up to a high. The humor also goes really well with the film, often thrown at you with lightning speed but never failing to amuse with that same charm the first one had. Though structurally and story-wise, it’s not as good as the first, it definitely does top the first based on visuals, scale, creativity and ambition, and is worth a watch for fans of the characters as well as audiences of all ages looking for a relatable hero like Miles Morales.


Air tells the true underdog story behind a stamp in worldwide culture — shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro, and how he led Nike’s pursuit of the greatest athlete in the history of basketball, Michael Jordan. We know how the story will end, but seeing the risks and passion of the characters is what makes the experience of watching Air pay off. The film is led by an all-star cast of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, and Viola Davis, who are all great — as well as Chris Messina who delivers a fantastic supporting performance as Jordan’s agent. Damon takes the spirit of a many who dared to think against the company’s norm and risk everything to aim extremely high in his belief that one athlete and one shoe can make the world better for all the sports fans, shoe-wearers and dreamers out there. That heart absolutely is felt with the audience, with the knowledge that Michael Jordan has in fact become one of the most inspirational figures in the world to people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Not only that, but the writing and directing make the business side of the rise of Air Jordan interesting, when the courtside aspect of the sport is absent. Also absent is Jordan as a character in the movie, which may distract for some, but the movie doesn’t outright suffer because of it. Davis is also excellent, showing a mother that gives everything to advocate for her son, and stands for the pure belief that her son will in fact change the world of basketball forever.

The turning of a pivotal moment in the NBA into a high-stakes, big dream from humble beginnings, that changed an industry forever, definitely reminds of the recent HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of The Lakers Dynasty, which would make a great companion piece to watch with Air. The 80s feel and soundtrack that director Ben Affleck gives the movie provides a feeling of the greatness that is right around the corner, that these dreamers at Nike are just about to achieve, and the rush of whether or not their hard work and putting everything on the line will convert to success and dreams into reality. Fans of Damon and Affleck, sports films, feel-good movies, and dramas should go to the big screen for this one that turns a business deal about a shoe into the fight of a generation that changed the world and raised the bar for what humans and dreamers can do.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Scott and Cassie Lang, Hope and Janet van Dyne, and Hank Pym are all accidentally transported to the Quantum Realm and embark on an adventure that goes beyond the limits of what they thought was possible.

Though this threequel expands on the scale of the last two Ant-Man movies to the massive possibilities of the Quantum Realm, the film lacks the charm and wit that a movie with Paul Rudd as a shrinking superhero should have. The green screen and visual effects are hit or miss in terms of blending in with the actors, and the sets feel derivative of Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, almost as if the production asked James Gunn to borrow a Guardians set for a day but without following through with the weird and quirkiness of what we’re seeing. Instead, the adventure just feels like it’s going through the motions until we meet Kang, who’s played strongly by Jonathan Majors. The stakes when it comes to his character are engaging but still too vague to give his character the depth beneath Majors’ stellar presence. Whenever the actors do get the chance to quip off each other or interact with bonkers new characters they meet, it makes for funny moments, especially due to Rudd’s undeniable talent and Kathryn Newton’s performance as Cassie, but any meaningful character development is nonexistent besides the characters revealing secrets or reiterating their love to each other. The movie’s themes about heroism and “looking out for the little guy” are sweet but only take it so far because of the unoriginal execution. The action itself has some fun moments and laughs, but ends up a standard adventure that isn’t inspired or clever enough to do its titular hero justice or advance his arc besides showing him the MCU’s new big bad.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a watchable movie without enough quirks to make the tone satisfying or enough complexity to make the conflict fascinating. Even for the Ant-Man trilogy, it’s simply fine and only needs to be watched to collect important puzzle pieces for the future of the MCU.


At only age 38 and with 4 major films, Damien Chazelle has solidified himself as one of our time’s most respected, beloved and exciting auteur filmmakers. His flare for grandeur and stories of epic and wondrous proportions shows once again in Babylon, even if the fact that it’s by far his most graphic movie may turn off many viewers, even within the first few minutes. As a matter of fact, there’s barely a moving story, the content is incredibly graphic, the character arcs are sometimes purposely incomplete for you to try and discover, and it doesn’t necessarily teach anything new about old Hollywood — yet something about Babylon is so transfixing and stunning that I was completely invited into the world Chazelle presented to me for 3 hours, and didn’t want it to end. The costumes and sets expertly bring you into the world of 1920s Hollywood glamour and cinema, but it’s the masterful cinematography that elevates the film into a stylistic marvel. The score by Justin Hurwitz is the best of the year, but that’s no surprise when his scores for Chazelle’s last three films were all life-changing, and this one is no exception. Hurwitz’s magnificent jazz themes and blends of instruments create a score that make an already breathtaking world a place you won’t want to leave, which perhaps explains the movie’s title.

Diego Calva is a breakthrough as the film’s lead, a party fixer that starts to work his way into the wonders of picture making. His eyes and spirit create a relatable sense of awe to the glamour he discovers and an undying empathy that sticks with the audience even when he seems to lose his way. Brad Pitt is also great as a movie star who’s devoted to his art, despite a messy home life, but fears losing his fame when silent films are no more, and talkies are suddenly the new big thing in the industry. The real scene-stealer, though, is the captivating Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy, an aspiring actress whose path to the spotlight is as messy as her potent need for attention, which Robbie conveys in the most lavish of ways. She delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as she creates a tremendous character that will help define her career for years to come, and will resonate even with those who didn’t love the rest of the film. The supporting cast also has their terrific moments, including but not limited to Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, Katherine Waterson and Tobey Maguire.

Babylon‘s storytelling sometimes feels like a hangout movie in the way Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was, with extended scenes that build more to a mood than a plot point. It also feels like Damien Chazelle ripped a page out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s book, being a plot-driven character piece where an actual story with an objective, direction or basic structure still takes a back seat. Instead, the story is defined by the characters’ larger than life personalities and the outrageous decisions they make which may or may not play into the later scenes and are often what define their arc, rather than a clear backstory or revelation. My main issue with the film is the ending itself, which takes what could’ve been a more powerful moment and decides to spoon-feed the message to the audience in an incredibly baffling way, and while others may be checked out by its length and self-indulgence by then, the final minute was the only thing I really think didn’t work from a writing and editing perspective. Though it’s an understandably divisive movie for its graphic content, it is for better or worse, one of a kind, and though it isn’t as coherent, sensible or even logical as many viewers would want, it’s more than enough to invite you to discover and dig into the beautifully messy and gargantuan spectacle that is Babylon.

I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Naomi Ackie stuns in this biopic about Whitney Houston, and the movie makes a strong case for why she was the greatest singing voice of her generation. It highlights Whitney’s accomplishments, shortcomings, and struggles with glamour, empathy and care, but the editing seems to occasionally bring Ackie’s performance down and while the characters and performances are strong, the script is so cliche it almost feels like it’s checking off boxes as it goes. The music biopic tropes are almost all there, whether it be the way the movie portrays the sudden rise to fame, abusive marriage, addiction, controlling father — it’s the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect but with a different soundtrack. The way the movie goes through these cliches feels almost like the way the parodical Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox story would’ve been written, and the editing often glosses past important story points and doesn’t let the beautiful musical sequences breathe and play out without frequent montage-like editing during the songs. Cinematograper Barry Ackroyd of the Bourne movies, The Hurt Locker, Captain Phillips, and Bombshell isn’t enjoying using a tripod too much and often shifts between handheld and still shots mid-scene which occasionally distracts.

In addition to Ackie’s breathtaking work, changing Houston’s mannerisms as she takes us from her teen years to the end of her life, Stanley Tucci is excellent as her manager Clive Davis, who in a nice change of pace from most biopics, isn’t the greedy asshole who takes advantage of the star, but a kind counselor and a devoted friend to Whitney. Ashton Sanders does a strong job as her husband Bobby Brown, as well as Tamara Tunie and Clarke Peters as her parents. Seeing Whitney’s process in creating her songs is also very satisfying, as well as her struggles with drugs and her music being called “not black enough” by critics of her music. Though it’s easier to follow than this year’s Elvis and has fun sequences for fans of Whitney’s music, with a star-making work from Naomi Ackie, but the script in the latter half could’ve been much stronger, as well as the runtime which drags later on and could’ve trimmed 10-20 minutes.

She Said

She Said follows the true story of New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor as they break one of the most important stories in a generation – a story that helped ignite a movement and shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood. The movie packs with it a lot of weight, as the Harvey Weinstein bombshell was only 5 years ago, leading to the beginning of the #MeToo movement. Director Maria Schrader and writer Rebecca Lenkieweicz choose to highlight the journalists and their integrity, relentlessness and dedication, as well as their victims and their courage to speak out, rather than showing Weinstein himself on screen. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan bring ferocity and empathy to their performances, and the movie highlights their perseverance and strength in their job, but also the importance of this story to them as women, as well as their balancing of their personal lives as mothers and the support of their husbands without it being questioned. Mulligan especially feels very naturally in command of her role, but Kazan also rises to having that same on-screen force. Andre Braugher is also great as Dean Baquet, the chief editor of the New York Times, and Samantha Morton and Jennifer Ehle are excellent as two women interviewed about their experiences with Weinstein.

The film is an important watch and though the more emotional moments may make viewers uncomfortable, it’s powerful to see Hollywood reckon with such a recent past, doing it with such patience and grabbing your interest even when talky scenes with many journalistic, legal, or industry terms can go on for long. The movie not only resonates because of the terrible things that happened in the film industry, but the silence that was allowed for go on for decades, the many who enabled the wrongdoers and their remaining in power — and whether the accountability still must be held — and the failure of the law to protect victims of sexual abuse, a change that’s only begun mere years ago. It addresses a system that’s allowed men to get away with years of abuse of power, and even get elected president, but at its core, it works because it brings forward the strong voices that helped contribute to the exposure of the broken system, both from the reporting and the survivor side. It’s a film that’s a conversation starter, about change that still needs to be made, and in affinity with the women of its story, whose bravery and determination are front and center.

The Fabelmans

Growing up in post-World War II era Arizona, a young man named Sammy Fabelman discovers a shattering family secret and explores how the power of films can help him see the truth.

Inspired by his own childhood and infatuation with cinema and filmmaking, The Fabelmans feels like everything Steven Spielberg’s career has been leading up to until now. But not only is it personal and revealing, it’s a masterpiece in its own right that earns its spot amongst other Spielberg classics. Michelle Williams somehow tops her remarkable work in Blue Valentine and Manchester by the Sea in one of the most powerful performances in Spielberg’s recent films. Williams makes the role and everything it demands hers. Along with his co-writer Tony Kushner, who also worked with the director on Munich, Lincoln and West Side Story, Spielberg paints an empathetic look at his mother through Williams’ character, Mitzi Fabelman, but also doesn’t shy away from her flaws and shortcomings, though never quite judging her. As the family’s patriarch Burt, Paul Dano delivers his most restrained but possibly most impactful performance yet, as the logos to Mitzi’s pathos, who does everything, even if it’s spending lots of time with his work or being firm with his kids, out of love and pride for his family. Seth Rogen is also excellent as Sammy’s surrogate uncle, portraying the most endearing and complex role of his career — not to mention Judd Hirsch in a hilarious few minutes of screentime. But Gabrille LaBelle as Sammy himself is a breakout to behold. He rips into your heart as a young man who embodies the aspiration and underdog not just in Spielberg but in all of us, as he works through familial conflicts, (sometimes anti-Semitic) bullying, and adolescence through empathy and, as sappy yet poetic as it sounds, film.

Along with his frequent collaborator behind the camera, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg makes basic settings such as a camping site or a high school hallway feel like a fairy tale. The production value along with the colors of the scenery make the simplest 1950s and 60s settings look grand, and makes film and cameras look like a weapon that spews greatness and wonder wherever it goes, because to the legendary filmmaker, that’s exactly what it is, and he makes you feel it in every frame. Even if you’re a cinema buff, it’s the most human coming-of-age story about family in a long time that juxtaposes innocence with the mistakes people, especially parental figures, can make — but the importance their humanity has on their children — and the uncertainty yet optimism of the world that is to come for Sammy Fabelman. Spielberg also manages to tell entire stories about certain characters’ backgrounds without ever directly addressing them, simply through their reactions and decisions. It’s incredible that about 50 years and 40 movies into his career, he still manages to surprise us and make us in awe, but don’t worry, there’s a lot of laugh-out-loud humor as well, so much effectively for a movie that isn’t ever quite a comedy. Knowing where the director’s story ends makes this journey with him, which is 2-and-a-half hours but earns every minute of it, even more gratifying. This movie especially resonated with me for its striking depiction of how movies and filmmaking can make you feel less lonely, as Spielberg’s films have for around half a century now. It’ll entertain, inspire and touch all ages, feeling like the culmination of his creative career yet unlike almost anything he’s ever made before. By the end you’d want to thank him for the opportunity to peer into his world.

The Woman King

The Woman King historical epic inspired by the true events that happened in The Kingdom of Dahomey, one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. Viola Davis makes every performance of hers seem effortless, and her role as General Nanisca of the Agoije, the Dahomey’s all-female group of warriors who defend the Kingdom, is no exception. Davis portrays the titular character as a fighter with a tough exterior who eventually peels back layers to reveal pain she must defend herself from through physical and emotional strength. Thuso Mbedu and Lashana Lynch are both outstanding, Mbedu as a new recruit who must grow into a courageous fighter, and Lynch as a commander who gives it her all into the role physically and makes you care so much about her character.

The action is staged very well and is surprisingly strong for a PG-13 rating, but it’s never distractingly holding back from showing violence either, though nothing is disturbing here. The grandeur of the costumes and sets makes the atmosphere work so well, and the film benefits from a spectacular score from Terence Blanchard, who should at least get nominated for an Oscar. Though the film does occasionally slow down between the powerful moments, the last act especially is the most exciting, investing and empowering and elevates the entire movie. It’s a great popcorn action film but also a showcase of amazing production and performances that’s built for the big screen.

Three Thousand Years of Longing

A lonely scholar, on a trip to Istanbul, discovers a Djinn who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.

George Miller’s first film since Mad Max: Fury Road allows him to let loose as expected, but doesn’t feel as rewarding as it could have. Tilda Swinton shines in a more fun, likable role than some of her more “chameleon”-like performances, and Idris Elba is great as a Djinn tasked with most of the film’s dialogue and monologues. The production design is also very noteworthy as is the score by Tom Holkenberg, easily his best music for a film since Fury Road. However, the CGI doesn’t look as grand or convincing as it attempts to be and could’ve used some more work.

Though Swinton and Elba’s conversations about how all the ways wishes could go wrong are interesting, the stories Elba tells about his past don’t feel as powerful or intricate as the film wants you to believe. The third act feels an abrupt turn of events and certainly drags, in a way feeling anticlimactic. Upon digging, Miller has a lot of interesting things to say, whether it be about longing, imagination, or love, but he doesn’t explore them deeply enough to deliver that unexpected blow of catharsis and fulfillment that the ending wants you to experience. Perhaps this is one film that constitutes a rewatch, but only certain parts feel inviting to revisit, while others, I feel I’d simply skip over if I ever saw this film again. It’s certainly bold and like nothing that’s come out this year, and its ambition is worth commending, but for most, this isn’t worth rushing to theaters to watch.

Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor enlists the help of Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster to fight Gorr the God Butcher, who intends to make the gods extinct.

Taika Waititi brings his signature laugh out loud humor and energetic storytelling style to Love and Thunder, as well as playing the lovable rock giant Korg who’s become Thor’s sidekick of sorts. Chris Hemsworth is as always having lots of fun, and Natalie Portman returns as his old flame Jane, who accompanies him along with Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson kills it as always though her character doesn’t get as personal as Thor and Jane do) on the film’s journey. Russell Crowe is also quite funny as Zeus, and expect some great celebrity cameos as well. The standout though is definitely Christian Bale as the villain. He gets to go all out with his performance as Gorr the God Butcher, and his motivations make sense as well as his weapons and planets seeming cool, though I would’ve added a little more screentime with the character because in a way he’s still underutilized compared to the heroes. But also worth mentioning is the memorable soundtrack that gives the film a lot of life — and Guns N Roses hits.

Though Waititi’s style now feels synonymous with Thor’s solo journey, it also feels like the saving grace of the movie that Taika’s at the director’s chair. Since Thor’s already gone through most of his meaningful development from his first movie unto Endgame, there isn’t much left to develop with him and the movie is best enjoyed as a Waititi adventure comedy as a result. It’s also not as smooth or funny as Ragnarok, and the director’s weakest film yet. The script feels rushed and slowed down in the wrong places and certain nuances feel underdeveloped — a few more minutes of runtime wouldn’t have hurt. The final battle is also visually uninteresting though conceptually fun, the location and lighting of the action feels anything but exciting. Thor and Jane’s romantic chemistry is sweet but also nowhere near as natural of a pairing as Tom Holland and Zendaya in Spider-Man or Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in the Iron Man movies. It also feels like Thor’s journey concluded more naturally with Endgame, and as an epilogue to his story it serves the character fine, but I think Marvel should close his arc here because it feels like all of Thor’s most memorable moments and growths are in the past.

Thor: Love and Thunder is a solid 2 hours of fun visuals and laughs, though it feels like the character’s story is being stretched a little past its breaking point, go for the enjoyment and cast, especially Christian Bale’s villanous performance.