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Reviews

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
(2021)

Indeed legendary
It's been ten years since Shang-Chi(Liu, charming, stoic) last saw his father, and leader of the criminal empire The Ten Rings, Wenwu(Leung, charismatic enough that we feel a lot of empathy for him, even when he does terrible things that we desperately want him to stop doing). That was also when he last spent time with his sister, Xialing(Zhang, a badass who deserves more screen time. Honestly, I'd be very surprised if she didn't, in future projects). He's joined by his friend Katy(Awkwafina, quirky, providing a lot of comic relief, something I'm told she's in general adept at), for what can best be described as a tense reunion, which allows the movie to really mine the family melodrama, one of the best elements it has. I won't give away exactly what the antagonist intends to do, only that our hero has to stop him. However, he has to figure out how, maybe even if, that is even possible.

Not quite, yet almost "Black Panther for Asian audiences", this does a lot for representation(including for women. Some of the best characters in this are female. In addition to the two that I've already mentioned, there is also Ying Nan(Yeoh, wise)), it is positively drenched in Chinese culture(the third act, while in ways it feels like it belongs to a completely different film than the first two, takes an especially deep dive into that. Ultimately, it is presented through a Western lens, and clearly we need to go further in this direction, still, it is a big deal that they put so much of it in an estimated $150 to 200 million major blockbuster, which will be seen by millions of people who would never consider watching an art picture, especially one focusing on a group they don't belong to), to the point where countless times, when it makes sense, major characters in this speak Mandarin to each other, rather than English, which it is subtitled into. And "don't worry", for those who think that the following is important: there are white people on screen, and they aren't made out to be "less than".

The action(each sequence of which feels distinct, belongs with the rest, and is memorable) pays tribute to many different kinds of martial arts films, acknowledging that they are standing on the shoulders of giants. Jackie Chan, wuxia, etc. The choreography is matched in skill by the cinematography. Not only are we seeing incredible fighting, the camera is dynamic, celebrating and highlighting how incredible it is. That *is* why you hire Bill Pope, the director of photography on the Matrix trilogy, two of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man entries, Darkman and Team America. The special effects are excellent. There are some issues with pacing, and certainly a chunk of this is composed almost entirely of flashbacks.

This features relatively brief but highly concentrated, surprisingly graphic gore(you know, there was a time when the fact that it's happening to beings that clearly are not human, wasn't enough to get away with this kind of thing with a PG-13 rating. Pepperidge Farm remembers), as well as a little strong language. I recommend this to any fan of comic book movie adaptations, and people passionate about diversity hiring. 8/10.

Mirror Mirror
(2012)

Deserves a spot on the wall
When Snow White(Collins, thankfully breaking with tradition and driving a lot of her own story, fashioned into a remarkably interesting and memorable version of the the icon) turns 18, she tries to stop the abuses of power carried out by her wicked stepmother, the queen(Roberts, doing an incredible job being tremendously unpleasant. She's the only cast member who isn't overflowing with a winning charm. She turned her natural appeal off for this role, since it was necessary to do so).

If you're going to adapt a story that everyone has seen 100 versions of, that are rarely that different from one another, you'll have to bring something new to the table, and this does that. Many elements of the fairy tale are played around with. This is the third movie by Tarsem Singh that I've watched, the other two being The Fall(which is a masterpiece) and Immortals(which has compelling aspects). It's possible I will get to the last two, eventually. He is immensely talented, fascinating, and his visuals are always stunning. Unleashing him upon a fantasy story with magic, a kingdom, and multiple lavish parties... It makes perfect sense, and it works out quite well. I could write 1000 words, each, just on the costumes, the sets, the cinematography, etc.

This does a pretty good job of striking a balance between being child friendly, and not insufferable to anyone with an age in the double digits. There's definitely a little in here that's cringe inducing, but it honestly is not much. The movie has a real heart(not just that of a pig), and is legitimately sweet. It does sometimes couch this in characters behaving like immature brats, but a lot of that is just to provide some sugar for the medicine to go down easier.

I recommend this to anyone who's willing to give it a shot. 7/10.

Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King
(2014)

Hail to the King, baby
Trevor Slattery(Kingsley, loving every second of pretending to be a bad actor) is in prison after the events of Iron Man 3. Some people there are huge fans of his, and they try to protect him from the ones who... maybe just don't... *get* his work, you know? Maybe it's too sophisticated for them? He agrees to do a series of interviews, and finds that the man conducting them is a professional who takes great care in his work. Thing is, he's not actually a journalist at all.

This is featured on the Blu-ray of Thor: The Dark World (2013). It was added to Disney Plus not long before Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released, since The Mandarin is a major part of that. This short is essentially a course correction by the studio, after so many people were unhappy with the treatment of that character in his first appearance. It's filmed and edited well. It's funny and stops short of being self indulgent.

I recommend this to everyone who's going to watch the aforementioned Asian-led MCU film. 8/10.

Candyman
(2021)

I guess I'm going to have to constantly make sure I'm not near a mirror, because I'm going to be talking about this one for a while
It's been just under 30 years since the events of the first film(this ignores the sequels, as we all should). Cabrini-Green has been gentrified. Anthony(Abdul-Mateen II, going from caring to gradually losing control), who lives there now, is a talented artist who has had a creative block for two years. He's expected to deliver a piece soon. So naturally, when he hears about the titular urban legend, and it inspires him, he starts looking into it... despite the increasing danger of doing so.

It took four films, but we finally got an entry with a wealth of black people... on both sides of the camera. Seriously, how wild is it that the previous ones were all directed by white men? At least they did gradually increase the amount of cast members of colour. These have been exploring violence against African-Americans from the start, and now it's being told by people who know what it's like to actually fear that happening to themselves, to members of their families. Their perspective helps lead to this being the best yet, in the series.

Jordan Peele continues to do an incredible job handling the genre. He knows when to subvert tropes and when to play them straight. How often the tension should be released by comedy instead of scares. This is less allegorical than Get Out and Us, whilst still fitting in a tremendous amount of social commentary and satire. BLM, police brutality, and the media coverage they get, are explored well. Nia DaCosta does an excellent job at the helm.

This features a moderate amount of bloody, gory violence and strong language. I recommend this to any fan of horror that makes you think. 8/10.

Babel
(2006)

A towering achievement
In Mexico, two people get married as a happy extended family watches on. In Japan, a deaf teenage girl struggles with her loneliness. In Morocco, a bus full of American tourists is slowly driving down the road, when, suddenly, a shot rings out. All of these stories are connected, and they will break your heart.

A major theme here, as you might guess from the title, is communication. So many situations go wrong, or at least worsen, because of things that go unsaid, are poorly conveyed, etc. This is a movie with very few truly evil characters or intentions, but full of negative results. There are many times where things escalate, and it is almost always because of real people making choices. We in the audience can understand why they make the decisions, and sit back powerless to stop things from going wrong. The full immersion lets us appreciate the different cultures depicted, with no judgement. The decision to use subtitles instead of having dozens of characters who would not naturally do so, speak English, is inspired.

This features graphic violence, some graphic nudity, sexual Content and strong language. I recommend this to any fan of drama. 8/10.

Us
(2019)

Combining Freddy Krueger, Macaulay Culkin and Alfred Hitchcock
Adelaide(Lupita Nyong'o, on edge, striving for normalcy) and the rest of her middle class family go to their beach house in Santa Cruz for the Summer. After several weird occurrences, they come face-to-face with some dangerous looking people. The thing is, their attackers look exactly like... well, as one of her two kids notes: "it's us".

Some viewers grow frustrated trying to find a real-world explanation for the events of this. In my opinion, you simply have to read it as an allegory. And if you do so, you may, like I, find that it has a cornucopia of food for thought. In most ways, this is almost as good as Get Out, Jordan Peele's directorial debut. We again have actors delivering incredible performances as creepy, off putting "not quite okay" types. A lot of the cast here actually have to play both regular versions, and their sinister, cruel counterparts, and they are all incredible. In some ways this is like a zombie movie, and in others, a slasher. It's delightfully subversive, playing with cliches and tropes. You never know exactly what is going to happen. The soundtrack is excellent.

There is a lot of strong language, as well as bloody, gory violence in this. I recommend this to horror fans. 7/10.

Get Out
(2017)

Of clinking teacups, eager beavers and... creative theories
Black man Chris(Kaluuya, striking a great balance between trying to get along and looking out for red flags) is going to spend the weekend with his white girlfriend of five months, Rose(Williams, very direct, and largely sympathetic to his worries), where he'll meet her parents. Certainly, they're trying to be understanding of his life experience being so different from theirs, albeit awkwardly so. Even so, it just feels like there's something off. It gets even weirder when a bunch of family friends show up, and start... sharing their perspectives on race. Should he stay, or... get out?

This is why more diversity in Hollywood is such a great thing. I sincerely doubt that anyone not African-American would have come up with this, and even if they had, there's *no way* they would have nailed it like this. Jordan Peele takes a break from comedy(well, it would be silly to claim that there are no jokes here, what I mean is, it isn't primarily focused on being funny), and I hope he keeps writing and directing terrifying films for as long as he keeps having ideas even remotely as intelligent and interesting as this. I hope to watch Us soon, and I have very high expectations for it.

When you make a horror movie, there are a lot of different notes you can play. This one goes for paranoia and creepiness, which, among other things, require incredible performances by the actors(despite how many appear in certain movies, in real life, most people try to avoid coming across as off putting), and every single cast member is spot on(keeping in mind there's over a dozen who have to be sinister). The script also needs to provide them with strong material, and it does. I refuse to give away the twist, and I implore you, if you haven't watched this yet, avoid spoilers. You definitely will not guess it before the reveal. It is hard to overstate how clever it is - how much it has to say, and how well it delivers that.

This features a moderate amount of strong language and bloody violence. I recommend this to anyone who likes to be scared and to be given food for thought at the same time. 8/10.

The Suicide Squad
(2021)

A beautiful story of the magic that can happen when a studio decides to get out of its own way
A team of super-villains can shorten their jail sentences by going on missions as the titular Suicide Squad. They're not expected to return, and they definitely won't if they stray from the mission, or disobey direct orders, and have their implanted explosives detonated.

It's the kind of ridiculous, contrived concept that we don't expect to work outside of a comic book. Not even in an adaptation. And yet, it does, incredibly well. You'll be surprised by how much you care about some of the members. Others are deliciously despicable, and we hate their guts. The level of interpersonal conflict is fun, and yet you can believe that someone would intentionally put all these people together. The action is tremendously enjoyable. No two characters are overly similar, no one disappears into the background, everyone does at least one major memorable thing, and like in Birds of Prey, Harley Quinn(Robbie, continuing to prove she's the perfect choice, she completely understands what makes Harleen tick) is given great scenes, dialogue, depth.

James Gunn brings all of his strengths to this. He handles the ensemble cast without getting bogged down in their introductions: instead, he uses an impactful, if short one for each, giving them something quick yet defining to do early after we meet them, and, of course, utilising, without abusing, the useful narrative shortcut of exposition. This is emotional, if not as much as the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The use of music fits and is effective, not on the nose boring choices that play only very briefly, and are followed up maybe a minute later with another cue. While I have to admit that this is the first R-rated picture of his that I watched, I would definitely say that he should get to do more of these in the future. It still doesn't feel like he's awkwardly constrained when he works with a PG-13, but he really knows how to use the freedom here. We do get ridiculous amounts of violence(and swearing. It is thankfully nearly completely devoid of gratuitous sexuality and nudity, that would only distract. Of course I wouldn't be against it if it served a purpose; there is no time in this when that would have been the case, though) that is expected from this kind of thing, yes, meanwhile, We also get some legitimately powerful, disturbing material. Of course not every film has to "have something to say"; however, it can be extremely gratifying when we see one that does(and does it well), and this is one of those instances.

I recommend this to anyone who finds the trailers appealing. They give you an excellent idea of what to expect. 8/10.

Slow West
(2015)

Stunning
Teenage boy Jay(Smit-McPhee, who sees things in a unique way) left Scotland for America, to reunite with his girlfriend, Rose(Pistorius, a realist). He meets Silas(Fassbender, getting his Eastwood on), and together, they try to find her.

In some ways, this is reminiscent of The Road, with Kodi still playing a youth who isn't quite ready to deal with the world that he exists in. Sometimes a while will pass, where you barely run into anyone at all. No one stays innocent, and if you continue to attempt to do so, you will end up dying an early death. This is gorgeously shot, from the days drenched in scorching sunlight, to the murky dark nights. Like in reality, this is an old West where everyone but the Native Americans came there from another country, and that still shows. Some left to find their luck, but were unable to, while others were trying to escape something in their past, and may be unable to. A country where you never know who you can trust. And a peaceful situation can turn dangerous, even deadly, at a moment's notice. Even for people who devoted their lives to peace. And at the same time, it's impossible to get by, if you never depend on anyone else.

There is some bloody violence and a little strong language in this. I recommend this to fans of unusual Westerns. 8/10.

Black Widow
(2021)

Worth the wait
Shortly after the events of Civil War, Natasha(Johansson, yet again nailing the "carrying the weight of all the awful things she did before reforming", which here is made one of the primary themes, along with how found family can help process pain, especially if it is a shared experience) meets back up with the three people (none of whom are actually related by blood) she shared (what little she had of) her childhood with: sister Yelena(Pugh, delivering several, perhaps more than any other one performer, of the many emotional gut punches), mother Melina(Weisz, applying her substantial brains to the situation) and father Alexei(Harbour, both legitimately trying to be parental figures, and occasionally really getting it right), to once and for all accomplish what Romanoff honestly believed she head done decades ago: Kill the evil General Dreykov(Winstone, as usual being deeply compelling as a vicious individual, here a misogynist), and destroy the Red Room, where all Black Widows are broken down, trained, and stripped of any individuality.

Obviously, it would have been even better if this had come out years ago. Actually, with a little rewriting, this could easily have come out an entire decade ago. Regardless of any other aspect, the fact that this stars a woman in the titular role has had people saying for years that it would automatically be bad. It's hard to argue that this would have come out upwards of 10 years ago, if not for that one aspect. I think a lot of people would have, and many, I'm sure, did, advise that it not rock the boat any more than that. So it's hard for me to overstate my relief and joy at finding that the movie is unapologetically feminist. It uses the spy training, which includes kidnapping girls when they are children, to explore trauma caused by men against women(obviously, the specifics of what they experience is extremely rare, and the details are hard to relate to. But the notion that some people, if not stopped, are simply going to keep hurting any female they can, really resonates). Ultimately, it could go even further. And it definitely would have been able to go deeper, if not for the trusted MCU formula demanding frequent action scenes. Thankfully, immensely talented director Cate Shortland does what she can (and that's a lot) to keep those scenes as intense and impactful as possible, by keeping the camera close, letting us feel every blow. There are some issues with the pacing and editing, that are most likely down to the movie not being completely done shooting before Corona restrictions were put in place, and a reluctance by the studio to postpone release until those rules were lifted. A decision which, honestly, is completely understandable. I won't spend long talking about Taskmaster, other than to say that, given what they clearly wanted to do there, they should simply have come up with a new character, or picked one that actually suited their needs, since now, they have frustrated(when that wasn't necessary or intentional at all) many who hoped for a more direct interpretation, and now merely distracts from a powerful and carefully thought-out depiction(as far as the ideas that this is exploring, they got it 100-percent spot-on).

A little visible blood, and lasting wounds, push the PG-13 rating. I recommend this to any fan of Scarlett, her depiction of the role, of spy thrillers, and of comic book adaptations. 7/10.

Baby Blues
(2008)

Unflinching
On a secluded family farm(huge props to the location scout), a mother(Porch, handling both the sympathetic aspects and the one line delivering attempts at creating a genre icon, a la Jason Voorhees) snaps and becomes violent towards her four youngsters. Her husband is a long-distance trucker, and won't be home for many hours. It is up to their oldest, 13-year old Jimmy(Canipe, getting across how resourceful he is, whilst still being a kid. He's a much better child actor than anyone should expect from someone his age) to save their lives.

Considering the fact that this is actually straight to video, it is wild how well made this is. The cinematography and editing are efficient and chilling. You see some of the auditory and visual hallucinations brought on by schizophrenia and postpartum psychosis(not "merely" depression, despite the title), that Mom is experiencing. The music is ominous. This is tense, suspenseful and creepy. A significant chunk of this is the chase, and despite its short length - even if you include the end credits it's only an hour and 14 minutes(!) - it has more of that, than a number of movies that are significantly longer.

The horror genre tends to explore basically any taboo that standards of good taste will allow them. The death of little ones remains one of the few that a lot of films will leave entirely untouched. So when this crosses that boundary early, and threatens to do it multiple times, and by the hands of a parent, a *mum*, obviously it's something that's going to attract attention. Wisely, this doesn't tend to show a lot of violence and gore when it comes to those victims. Even so, this is tremendously exploitative. And the ending sends that into the stratosphere. You may want to stop watching not long before it actually concludes - trust me, you'll know when.

I recommend this solely to those who feel strong anxiety about the idea of someone murdering their own offspring, and believe that this picture could help them work through that. My rating is based on the talent that went into making this, and does not reflect how messed up I think it is to make a slasher flick out of this concept. 8/10.

Marvel's Behind the Mask
(2021)

If there was one thing my father (Jack Kirby) did not like, it was bullies
This consists of interviews with writers, artists, people inspired by the comics, who study them, all of whom have something compelling to add within their area of expertise(and there is a very clear love of what they're working on or fascinated by), panels, clips from the subjects, behind-the-scenes and documentary footage, and incomplete effects shots.

It's 65 minutes long. This is found on Disney+. It spoils a lot of the comics, but this review doesn't.

They talk about Stan Lee's Definition of the ideal Marvel character: we get to know who they are, it's not just someone in spandex jumping off a building. How they help us figure out the world. The opportunity for interesting social narratives. Depicting someone alienated trying to fit in. Exploring identity: it's not about hiding yourself, it's about uncovering yourself. Several of the original creators being Jewish, and having to hide that side of themselves, wanting to be accepted as American. Identifying with The Thing, if you stand out visually, and are always judged by your appearance before being seen as who you actually are. The supposed monster inside being redeemable. The 60s introducing psychology. Peter Parker at times being more interesting than Spider-Man. DMC using rap to create an alter ego. Being inclusive before there was pressure to do so, because there actually were non-whites around. The Fantastic Four responding to seeing Black Panther's skin colour with acceptance, tolerance, after he kicks their ass, after they defeated Galactus. The offices treated the women and various races working there well. Luke Cage didn't wear a mask, because they wanted everyone to know right away, that this hero was black. They acknowledge problematic aspects. Moving away from ugly stereotypes. Taking tropes and turning them upside down. Putting T'Challa in Reconstruction. The heroines having lesser superpowers, until it was addressed with the creation of feministic Ms Marvel, wearing Gloria Steinem glasses out of costume, editor of Woman magazine... though, of course, the costume was basically a bathing suit. Making the X-Men international, instead of just a bunch of Caucasian dudes. Nightcrawler embracing his appearance. Switching genders. Northstar coming out, and the plan changing from him dealing with AIDS, to him being half fairy. Making them interesting, not just tokens. Introducing Miles Morales, through tragic circumstance. Giving Carol a relatable background. Assembling a dark-skinned superteam to help during Hurricane Katrina. Kamala Khan imitating Danvers' appearance, subconsciously.

I recommend this to any fan of the medium. 8/10.

Visualizing 'TRON: Legacy'
(2011)

Cyber galapagos
This consists of interviews with the cast and crew, all of whom have something compelling to add within their area of expertise(and there is a very clear love of what they're working on), clips from the subject, behind-the-scenes footage, and incomplete effects shots.

It's 12 minutes long. This is found on Disney+.

They talk about light being central to the look. The unique look. Director Joseph Kosinski coming from architecture. The simulated world having weather and other things FX could show in 2010 that it couldn't in 1982. Building as many sets as possible. Contrasting The Grid with the real world. Costumes are made to look imitated, not sewn. Using 3D cameras more advanced than those used for Avatar. The deaging.

I recommend this to any fan of the property. 8/10.

The Wave
(1981)

It could happen anywhere
In order to better convey to his students how the Nazis could convince so many people to support the party, high school teacher Ben Ross(Bruce Davison, auditioning for the role of Senator Kelly) decides on an alternative approach: he is going to have them participate in a class-wide autocracy. He had no idea how bad things would get.

Full disclosure: I watched this purely so that I could compare it to the 2008 German film(and overall, I definitely prefer that over this, but this is a good companion piece), which is also a dramatization of the original Ron Jones social experiment. At first, I did not have high expectations of this. I mean, it was literally made for TV, with that level of production values, to teach kids something. It's "a very special episode". In my mind, this would be full of unimpressive cinematography, cheesy music, and highly questionable acting. The presence of those is, in actuality, minimal in this. And the editing is genuinely great. After setting the stage by showing actual footage of concentration camps, the aw-shucks earnestness is rapidly replaced with growing tension and creepiness. It starts with sitting up straight, addressing the teacher as Mr Ross, giving short and precise answers. And it isn't long before the similarities to the Third Reich are completely undeniable.

I recommend this to those looking for compelling explorations of how little it takes for people to be indoctrinated. 7/10.

Thor: Journey Into Mystery
(2018)

As long as you stay true to the characters, it's just a big playground
This consists of interviews with the cast and crew, all of whom have something compelling to add within their area of expertise(and there is a very clear love of what they're working on), clips from the subject, behind-the-scenes footage, and incomplete effects shots.

It's 6 minutes long. This is found on Disney+. It spoils a lot of the title, but this review doesn't.

They talk about taking inspiration from early Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, as well as the Walt Simonson run, about Ragnarok. Embracing iconic aspects. Gorr the God Butcher. Planet Hulk.

I recommend this to any fan of the property. 8/10.

Getting in Touch with your Inner Thor
(2018)

*High-five*, not "hold hands"
This consists of interviews with the cast and crew, all of whom have something compelling to add within their area of expertise(and there is a very clear love of what they're working on), clips from the subject, behind-the-scenes footage, and incomplete effects shots.

It's 6 and a half minutes long. This is found on Disney+.

They talk about keeping the stakes real yet having a lot more fun with Thor. The difference between the first two solo films and Ragnarok, and why they made that decision. A more contemporary feel. He's sarcastic because of his time spent with Tony Stark.

Hemsworth expresses that he gets bored doing the same thing for too long... I'll admit, me I'm not the biggest fan of Thor Ragnarok, but then, I only spent 2-hours and 11 minutes watching it, he spent weeks maybe months, playing the character, so no wonder he wanted to make a change, after appearing in four MCU movies before it.

I recommend this to any fan of the property. 8/10.

Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years - The Evolution of Heroes
(2018)

Building these stories up to a giant conclusion
This consists of interviews with the cast and crew, all of whom have something compelling to add within their area of expertise(and there is a very clear love of what they're working on), clips from the subject, behind-the-scenes footage, and incomplete effects shots.

It's 5 and a half minutes long. This is found on Disney+.

They talk about the growth of the individual Avengers. What defines the different ones. How the team-up movies explore them. The conflict in Civil War. Expanding the Marvel Universe. Since this came out before Infinity War, obviously they're building hype towards that one.

I recommend this to any fan of the MCU. 8/10.

Thor: Finding Korg
(2018)

We're still rolling? I said "cut". Well, in my mind
This consists of interviews with the cast and crew, all of whom have something compelling to add within their area of expertise(and there is a very clear love of what they're working on), clips from the subject, behind-the-scenes footage, and incomplete effects shots.

It's 7 and a half minutes long. This is found on Disney+.

They talk about working with Taika Waititi. His many quirks. Numerous talents. That coming from making indies, he has familiarity with every element of filmmaking, and gets involved with all of them, despite the much larger scope here. We see some great (presumably ad-libbed) bits that didn't make it into the actual movie.

I recommend this to any fan of Thor Ragnarok. 8/10.

Team Thor: Part 2
(2017)

Life is about experiences and this certainly is one
Thor(Hemsworth) is trying to cope with life in Australia, and his roommate Daryl(Jacobson, the everyman, "straight man"), is trying to cope with, well, him. Turns out that, when he's not saving the world, when he's just at home, living his life, the Odinson can be... kind of a lot to deal with.

This is one of the shorts directed by Taika Waititi. Technically it isn't MCU canon, but that doesn't stop it from being absolutely hilarious. The contrast between the Asgardian and, just, everyday stuff, like playing Connect Four, or cleaning the apartment, makes for amazing comedy. The talented New Zealander thus taps into some of the same material as he did in What We Do in the Shadows, which he made with Jemaine Clement. I am currently circulating a petition that he continue doing this as long as he has a love for it.

It's 4 and a half minutes long. This is found on Disney+. I recommend this to any fan of the brand of humor also seen in Thor Ragnarok. 8/10.

Doctor Strange: A Strange Transformation
(2017)

This needs to be the greatest car crash in cinematic history
This consists of interviews with the cast and crew, all of whom have something compelling to add within their area of expertise(and there is a very clear love of what they're working on), clips from the subject, behind-the-scenes footage, and incomplete effects shots.

It's 9 and a half minutes long. This is found on Disney+.

They talk about boldly crashing into the Marvel mystical universe. It's feeling like a huge experimental film. Having a clear vision. The challenge of the cloak. Scale. Using a mix of three or four different martial arts. Stephen moving from scepticism to mysticism. Immediately realising Cumberbatch was the right choice, including postponing production to make sure he had wrapped on something else. Learning about the surgeon skills.

I recommend this to any fan of the property. 8/10.

The Wolf of Wall Street
(2013)

What happens when you follow your basest instinct, every time you can, for years?
Jordan Belfort(DiCaprio, playing a charismatic jerk. Really glad he and Martin found each other, they bring out the best in each other) is a stockbroker, with incredibly low morals, even by those standards. He finds ways to trick people into buying what he's selling, and quickly starts to make obscene amounts of money. How long can he possibly keep that going?

If Scorsese has directed a bad film, then I don't know of it. Then again, I have heard that the Irishman feels like it takes as many years to watch as they deaged the leads by. While this one does substitute violence for debauchery, it does play a lot like one of his gangster biographies. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. No reason for him to stay away from his old bag of tricks. There's a lot of narration, since there are simply too many details to "show, don't tell" everything. Most of it voice-over, some of it breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the camera - occasionally it will be very Deadpool, even though this beat that movie to theatres by three years. We get quirky types of people(Margot Robbie was an excellent find, and it's really no wonder that she's been in as hot a name in Hollywood as she has been since this, despite some of them not being all that well received). Depicting very carefully approached lawbreaking, where we can understand how, and why, it works.

I've heard some criticise these movies, saying that they romanticise these obviously unethical behaviours. Pointing out that a lot of attention to detail is put into showing the positive experiences they have specifically because of the awful things they do. My argument against that has always been that that's only the first chunk of these pictures. They are also very careful to show the eventual downfall. Unless you walk out early, clearly the message of these is that, though you might get away with it early on, in the long term it will destroy you and the people around you. In this flick especially, the way things gradually fall apart is a sight to behold. It's like a Rube Goldberg machine. Or that amazing dominoes bit from V for Vendetta. It's hard for me to overstate just how well constructed, and how fun to watch, it is. One sequence, dealing with a car, several phones, and some unforeseen consequences, made me laugh harder than I have at comedies for several years.

This features a lot of nudity, sexuality, drug use and strong language, as well as some violence. I recommend this to anyone that the excellent trailer appeals to. 8/10.

Lovelace
(2013)

Interesting
Everybody knows about the porno. This film opens by briefly showing a re-enactment of part of it. Then we briefly see Linda(Seyfried, charming, innocent) in very private situations, such as taking a bath. And we get short audio clips covering the controversy, overlapping. Almost overwhelming. The way it must have really been for her. At this point, it cuts to before she got involved. Beyond the impeccable period detail, here we are presented with a 1970s America that is always looking to objectify women, including against their will. Chuck(Sarsgaard, skeezy), from right away, coerces her into to sex and other situations where he has the control. While she was just trying to make sure that they made enough money to get by, the people making money off Deep Throat didn't think twice about taking advantage of her.

It's not really a surprise that a story like this is going to point the finger of blame at certain people and institutions. I was relieved to find that it applied significant intelligence and maturity before doing so. It must have been tempting to go for the gut reaction. It is very admirable that they did not. This features some strong language, violence, nudity and sexuality. 7/10.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
(2021)

Soars high and packs a punch
The Blip is over. 50% of all life has been brought back. While many celebrate the return of their loved ones, it does mean that some people are put at a disadvantage. Refugees from all over the world had been welcomed into countries all over the planet. They got jobs that were no longer filled. Then, once the people who had disappeared came back, they were kicked out again. An unknown number of them have now formed the group the Flagsmashers. Are they revolutionaries? Or terrorists?

This mini is driven by its politics, so I'll dive into that first. The MCU continues its shift into being more diverse. I've promised myself that, if at some point, it starts getting legitimately miscalculated, if it starts feeling like pandering, or it starts to just blindly demonize its opposition, I will immediately, and honestly, call it out. No, I'm not pretending that there's no way to do this wrong. It's just that they keep doing it right.

With Steve Rogers gone, countless people feel the need for someone to to take up the mantle. Some believe that it should be Karli Morgenthau(Kellyman, doing a great job walking the line between charismatic enough that she could attract supporters and lead this movement, and yet with a sense that she might go too far in the name of her goals. Yet another in a long line of "I agree with their point, but not with their methods" villains, and I say keep 'em coming), leader of the aforementioned group. Then again, we do already know who he chose to be his successor: Sam(Mackie, full of empathy and heroism).

However, he feels that the US would never accept a black man representing it as Captain America, and hands over the shield, expecting it to be part of the exhibit in the Smithsonian. So he is of course shocked to see that, without his input, someone has been appointed to take over the title. While it's no surprise that they went with someone white, you may not have expected just how much they humanise John Walker(Russell, who has inherited all of his famous father's charm, as well as his knack for playing someone we can't stand). Suffering from imposter syndrome, and with something of a dark side, there is so much more to him than the tool that he was intended to be. In some ways, he is his predecessor's twisted mirror image: a perfect soldier, and not necessarily a good man.

While colorblind casting has its strengths, I really appreciate that this instead went for colour conscious. It is very clear throughout, that there are POC both in front of, and behind the camera. It never feels like a bunch of out of touch Caucasians, working from inaccurate stereotypes, the way a lot of media did, in the past. We see where Wilson grew up, meet his sister Sarah(Oduye, a great mother, very responsible), her kids, and see what the family dynamics are like. We also get some uncomfortable and unflinching(honestly really pushing the PG-13, well, TV-14, rating) looks into how African Americans are treated in the United States, and the sadly forgotten truth of just how bad it was before more recently. Some aspects of this are barely fiction, and are clearly very heavily based on actual events.

Now for the other half of the title. Let's talk about Bucky(Stan, struggling with the evils of his past). He is one of the ways that this explores how the government lets down its veterans. His court-ordered therapist can relate to him because of her own service, yet doesn't claim to be that great at her current job. She insists that he tell her all the painful details of his frequent PTSD nightmares. That he makes amends. That kind of thing is already difficult for alcoholics following the 12 steps. Imagine having murdered people for decades, and trying to break that to the victims' family members. The fact that he did it under mind control doesn't change that these people are dead, and many of them wouldn't be, if he hadn't shot them. We already knew that he remembered all of them. And have seen him be confronted with someone related to one of his victims. This is the first time we really see him intentionally go out and tell these people the truth about their loved ones.

It's hard for me to put into words how relieved I am they didn't try to shove all of this into one or two movies. And that this isn't a traditional 22 episode per season TV show, where every 7 minutes or so, it has to have something dramatic happen, so that the audience will stay through the commercial break. The 6 episodes of varying length, only available on Disney+ for streaming, give the material room to breathe, instead. Honestly, there are a lot of scenes that are all about plot and character, many that are just people talking. The dialogue is so well done in both writing and performance, and go into such interesting concepts.

Of course, the appeal of this series is also partially the action scenes. They are indeed on the level of huge Hollywood blockbusters, as far as scope and budget go. The trailers did not give everything away. Considering the relatively limited amount of superpowers on display, it's remarkable that it never gets repetitive. The flying, mid air battles, entering and leaving planes and helicopters in mid flight, is all amazing to behold. It's like playing Just Cause 3, which, if you haven't, and you like this kind of action, you really should. There are some new gadgets and abilities on display and they're used to great effect. The shared continuity is still a massive strength of this franchise. This sees the return of Henry Jackman, who composed for The Winter Soldier and Civil War, and he uses some leitmotifs incredibly well.

I recommend this to anyone who cares about the issues that it explores, and fans of the icons. 10/10.

Black Panther: The Warriors Within
(2018)

And he kind of has to take it, you know what I mean?
This consists of interviews with the cast and crew, all of whom have something compelling to add within their area of expertise(and there is a very clear love of what they're working on), clips from the subject, behind-the-scenes footage, and incomplete effects shots.

It's 6 minutes long. This is found on Disney+.

They talk about how Wakanda is amazing. The female leadership. Variety in voices around T'Challa. Shuri being the heart of the film. Nakia and their complicated relationship. Okoye and her battle prowess, and the dignity and respect that earns. The Dora Milaje, and casting them. Not being limited by conventional ideas of femininity.

I recommend this to any fan of the property. 8/10

From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion
(2018)

Michael does really have a point
This consists of a roundtable discussion with the writers(of various incarnations of Black Panther, including the solo film), executive producer, and the director, all of whom have something compelling to add within their area of expertise(and there is a very clear love of what they're working on), clips from the subject, artwork and panels.

It's 20 and a half minutes long. This is found on Disney+. It spoils a lot of the title, and so will this review, so that I can go into more detail.

They talk about how the movie can be shown to people of all ages. That the character has its roots in the Civil Rights Movement. The different versions. Making a product that could be enjoyed by white men, since those make up the majority of comic readers. How it would feel to actually realise Wakanda existed. Taking pride in having written someone, that now Angela Bassett portrays. Making the fictional country otherworldly, without creating Asgard on Earth. Shuri creating sneakers inspired by Back to the Future. Surrounding T'challa with powerful women, all of whom have personalities and ideas of their own. Okoye throwing off the wig being black femininity. How positive the audience response was, to the character in the MCU. The villains playing off of Chadwick Boseman(RIP), and their death scenes.

I recommend this to any fan of the property. 8/10

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