Thor: Love and Thunder and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Taika Waititi
Much like Thor himself, I find myself in something of a slump recently with a few different roads to get out of it. I won’t go into details, but I’m definitely taking a few steps in some sort of direction and we’ll see how things shake out in the next few weeks. For now though, I’m working on these reviews on my schedule and no one else’s which means that unfortunately, this is coming out long after everyone else has said their piece on it. Still, no harm in throwing my opinion out into the void and seeing if the void spews anything back up! Does this latest entry in the Marvel Forever-verse shock a few more minutes of life into the franchise, or will this be just fine and watchable to the consternation of those who are waiting for a big enough disaster to finally topple Disney’s firm grip on the genre? Let’s find out!!
With everything that happened in that whole Thanos kerfuffle, which included the death of his brother and the near extinction of the Asgardians, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) really needed a break to try and figure things out. To that end, he’s been bumming around with the Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as his friend Korg (Taika Waititi), until they run out of Big Lebowski jokes and convince him to go on some wild goose chase for some sort of God Butcher in a bid to get away from his mopey Asgardian butt. Turns out the threat is real, however, as a humble alien named Gorr (Christian Bale) loses his faith in the Gods and is rewarded with the Necrosword; a weapon so dark and powerful that it can kill these selfish Gods while slowly draining him of his life and seemingly his sanity. Well, we’ve got a new Marvel villain to dispatch of which can only mean it’s time for another team-up, and since the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t returning his calls he returns to the last Asgardian colony on Earth to see if a few warriors are still bumming around. Turns out that Thor’s hammer has been restored and there’s a new Thor in the form of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who is called Mighty Thor to distinguish from the guy whose name is Thor but lost the title of Thor some time ago… or something like that. Needless to say, there are some mixed feelings there as their relationship didn’t end on the best of terms, but they need to work together, along with Korg and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to stop Gorr who, in classic villain fashion, has stolen a bunch of Asgardian children for seemingly no reason other than spite. Can Thor and Mighty Thor set aside their past difference and come together to stop this threat to the universe? What are the rest of the Gods doing while Gorr is carving his way through their ranks, and what is Gorr truly hoping to accomplish by stringing the two Thors along on this rescue mission? Seriously, are Jane and Thor gonna talk or will they just keep things awkward for the whole trip?
So how’s everyone else enjoying their Spring? Lots of sunshine and pretty flowers? Well for me it’s been nonstop rain, a tornado warning, and a broken toilet that cost a bunch of money to fix, so things have been just a tiny bit hectic over here. That’s certainly a reason why my movie reviews have been a little late recently, but thanks to streaming services and studios becoming less confident about their theatrical releases, it’s now easier than ever to catch up on stuff in a timely fashion! To wit, I have three movie reviews for your enjoyment and to hopefully distract from the fact that I haven’t seen the new Top Gun movie yet!
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is owned by Walt Disney Pictures
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
The former stars of the nineties animated show Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers have gone through a lot since its cancellation all those years ago with Chip (John Mulaney) selling out and going corporate while Dale (Andy Samberg) trying to make it work all these years later; banking on the nostalgia adults have for his glory days and selling signed photos at conventions to keep himself afloat. To make matters worse, they ended the show on pretty bad terms so they’ve hardly spoken to each other since then, but fate brings them back together as one of the cast members of that show Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) is in deep with the cartoon mafia and gets kidnapped right after calling both of them for help. With their friend’s life in the balance, Chip & Dale must put aside their differences and work together to scourge the LA Underworld (or at least the nostalgic cartoon version of it) to save their friend and perhaps even come back together after being apart for so long.
I’m either gonna be too harsh on this movie because I’m a giant sourpuss or I’m gonna be too nice to this for fear of looking like a giant sourpuss. It occupies a very strange place for me as I do genuinely enjoy a lot about this movie, but I still can’t quite get behind it for reasons that… well probably make me look like a giant sourpuss. Before we get into that, let me just say that I got a decent amount of laughs in this and I was genuinely tickled by a lot of the imagination on display. There are some deep-cut references that certainly appealed to me, and concepts like the putty captain and the puppet chef were well-realized and fun to watch on screen. Heck, I’d go so far as to say that the inclusion of Ugly Sonic has me convinced that he should get his own spin-off series because they were just that funny! It’s almost like the nineties kids finally got the Roger Rabbit sequel we always wanted to see as the movie’s use of nostalgia, however cynical it may be, is at least cleverly realized with some very funny premises throughout. I love the idea of turning the objects of nostalgia that are the lifeblood of the convention scene and making them the literal guests trying to make a few bucks at rickety card tables with tri-fold boards of merch. It’s clear that the creative behind this are of my particular generation, both with the nostalgia for all this nineties crap and the subsequent decades of nostalgia baiting entertainment, so it gets more than a few points for some level of authenticity even if the movie leans far too heavily on it which I guess brings us to what’s wrong with the movie. The thing is that you can only rely on sight gags and nostalgia for so long before the movie has to start standing on its story and this is where the movie just doesn’t work for me. I didn’t find Chip or Dale particularly endearing as characters, nor did I find the plot all that interesting with the mystery being pretty threadbare. Now I could avoid being a giant sourpuss here and chalk this up to being a kid’s movie where a swift pace and lighthearted tone can carry an otherwise simplistic storyline, but I feel the age and density of so many of the references means that it’s aiming a bit higher than it wants to admit. Do kids even know who the Rescue Rangers are? Heck, are kids gonna get any of the Disney Afternoon jokes in here; let alone the references to more adult-oriented stuff like South Park or the general concept of bootleg movies? It’s a movie that clearly wants to have its cake and eat it; setting its targets squarely on a Millennial audience while hiding behind the Gen Z for its immature and simplistic storytelling. Perhaps it splits the difference evenly enough that both groups will get at least something out of this and I can’t deny the moments I enjoyed throughout, so it gets a little bit of a pass from me but this trick isn’t gonna work indefinitely. Millennials will get sick of 90s-stalgia just as everyone got sick of 80s-stalgia about a decade ago, and what is that gonna leave us with? 2000s-stalgia? I mean it’d be nice if I got my Megas XLR reboot, but still…
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Sam Raimi
Before this latest phase of Marvel movies, you would have sounded like a broken record listing off all the great things about it before giving it an above-average score, but the last few movies have wavered a bit in quality with the only real standout being the latest Spider-Man; the one that leans heavily on nostalgia for movies that weren’t even made by Marvel Studios. Still, even prior to the Post-Endgame MCU there was an easily identifiable formula for these things and even the best of the Marvel movies didn’t deviate much from it; including the first Doctor Strange movie which definitely benefited from its mind-bending vision but still fell into a lot of the same pitfalls of other Marvel films at the time. Now it’s sequel time with a veteran director behind it, so perhaps this will be the one to successfully break the Marvel mold and do something unique with it instead of just another really enjoyable entry in the catalog. Can this bridge the gap between the great simplicity of the pre-Endgame MCU and the more experimental phase it finds itself in now, or will it tear itself apart trying to fix what isn’t broken? Let’s find out!!
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) may not be the Sorcerer Supreme since taking that five-year vacation, but he’s still hanging out at the Sanctum Sanctorum and just kinda working on himself. You know, get to know the REAL Doctor Strange, especially since his ex-girlfriend Christine (Rachel McAdams) is getting married and so he no longer has someone to pine after. Geez, this is starting to sound a bit sad. Maybe an interdimensional threat that could rip apart the universe would give him a bit of structure and a clearly defined goal to go after! Well as luck would have it, a young woman named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) is being pursued by the kind of monsters you’d find in a D&D handbook, and it turns out that she has the unique gift of being able to travel through dimensions. Well… sort of. She can’t exactly activate it at will but it always seems to get her out of trouble at the last second, though her luck seems to be running out as the malevolent force that’s pursuing her seems to be getting very close and she’s even gone to a few different Doctor Strange counterparts in those other universes without much luck in stopping this threat. Now it falls on our Doctor Strange to put an end to this sinister chase and stop them from taking her powers for their own nefarious end. For this task, he enlists the help of the current Sorcerer Supreme, Wong (Benedict Wong), as well as Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) who’s been off on her own since that whole Wanda Vision thing happened. Can Strange uncover the identity of this malevolent force that’s out to hurt America, and will he like the answers that he finds? What does Wanda hope to gain from all this, and will it be enough to make her whole after losing so much? I bet they wish they could escape to a dimension where Everything Everywhere All At Once came out the month after this instead of the month before.
Turning Red and all the images you see in this review are owned by Pixar
Directed by Domee Shi
Pixar really hasn’t made anything that I thought was spectacular since Coco, which is a shame because it’s no secret that they’ve been the go-to studio for high-quality family entertainment. To see the studio focus more and more on sequels while their original work feels less inspired each year is just another reason why the world really did just come to an end in the last few years. That’s not even getting into the cowardice of Disney itself in the last few weeks, so there was certainly a lot of pessimism from me going into this one. With so much up against it, does this latest outing from Pixar manage to turn things around and make me appreciate them once more, or will I have to look to the Spider-Verse sequel if I want to see a great animated family film this year? Let’s find out!
Our story begins with Meilin “Mei” Lee (Rosalie Chiang) who has recently turned thirteen and is living her best life in the heart of Toronto in 2002. She gets good grades at school, she has three great friends named Miriam, Priya, and Abby (Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Hyein Park), and she has a fantastic relationship with her mother (Sandra Oh)! They work together at their temple, they watch Chinese dramas on TV, and it seems like nothing can possibly tear them apart! That is until puberty hits and with it comes an ancient family gift/curse which turns the women of their family in red pandas whenever they feel excessive emotions. Naturally being a giant furry creature is not conducive to Mei’s life goals and so she needs to keep it under wraps while her family puts together a ritual to rid her of the panda once and for all! Sounds simple enough, but the teenage years being what they are mean that life gets in the way pretty quickly; especially when Mei and her friends’ favorite boy band 4 Town are coming to town before the ritual can take place. This newfound power as well as the other changes happening to her have given Mei a new sense of independence which may help her and her friends get to the concert but is putting a serious strain on her relationship to her mother. Can Mei thread the needle between a goody-two-shoes overachiever and a rambunctious bad-girl without losing sight of what’s really important? How has her own mother’s experience with this gift/curse affected her, and is it only growing the divide between her and her daughter? If Mei’s mother is worried now, wait until she finds out what the internet is!
Spider-Man: No Way Home and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Jon Watts
It’s been a rather underwhelming year for the superhero genre which once towered over the world. The Pandemic has pushed the release schedule around several times which means we’re waiting longer for these movies, and to me, the MCU is having trouble finding their voice after Endgame put a pretty definitive end to the original story arc. Frankly, the best we’ve gotten from the MCU in the last two years have been the Disney+ shows that may not always hit their marks but definitely have a lot of interesting ideas that probably wouldn’t work as a movie; even with these things being overly long for the most part. Still, it’s hard not to get excited about another Spider-Man film; especially one as specifically targeted to my generation as this one is. Does it manage to pull us out of the MCU funk and deliver on all the ludicrous promises the trailers have made, or is this going to be as convoluted and pointless as the Clone Saga; or even worse, One More Day? Let’s find out!!
Following the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has been revealed to the world as their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and this newfound celebrity (and infamy) has thrown his life into chaos. Investigations from the government, a bunch of weirdos throwing bricks through his windows, and a very awkward school environment where half of them want to see him become their mascot and the other are hurling conspiracy-laden insults at him. See, this is why you need to be rich or a soldier to do the Superhero thing; either commit to it full time or pay people to go outside for you! It gets to be such a burden that Peter begs the MCU’s cool uncle Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to use his wizard magic to erase his identity from the mind of everyone in the universe. Let’s just say that it had mixed results as the world doesn’t forget his identity, but there are now a bunch of villains running around who seem to know him; including Doctor Otto Octavius who has four robot arms (Alfred Molina), Max Dillon who has electricity powers (Jamie Foxx), Dr. Curt Connors who’s a lizard man (Rhys Ifans) Flint Marko who spends most of the movie as a human-shaped sandcastle for whatever reason (Thomas Haden Church), and of course Norman Osborne who still suffers from pretty severe mood swings (Willem Dafoe). Now if you’ve kept up with the Spider-Man films for the last twenty years, those names should seem pretty familiar. Sadly the Spider-Man of this universe didn’t get to see those movies, so he has to discover who all these people are, why they became villains in the first place, and if this confluence of inter-dimensional fan service can actually turn into a good thing for all involved. Will Peter Parker, with the help of his friends, his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and his sorta-bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau), be able to stop these guys from tearing apart this universe and perhaps even get past their overwhelming hatred of wall-crawling superheroes? Who else may have found their way into this universe, and what can they do to either help or hamper Peter’s attempts to fix everything? So is J Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons) also an inter-dimensional buzzkill, or is there no universe that can escape his ludicrous conspiracy theories and get-rich-quick schemes?
Eternals and all the images you see in this review are owned by Disney
Directed by Chloé Zhao
One thing you can say about the MCU is that they’ve never met a character, no matter how obscure to the general public, that they couldn’t find a way to work. Well except maybe Iron Fist, but the Netflix shows are their own thing anyway so I wouldn’t bother counting that anyway. Heck, the ONLY thing I knew about Guardians of the Galaxy prior to the movie being announced was Rocket Raccoon’s inexplicable inclusion in Marvel Vs Capcom 3, and that turned out to be one of the best things the MCU has popularized! The Eternals however seem like Marvel REALLY trying to challenge themselves as far digging up obscure characters to make into household names as I STILL couldn’t tell you a thing about them despite seeing the trailers a few times! It’s definitely going to be its own thing which could be its saving grace considering how lackluster the Post-Endgame MCU has been so far, but is it too far away from what audiences’ expect for them to latch onto? Let’s find out!!
The Eternals are BASICALLY to Marvel Superheroes what Dracula is to other vampires. This group has been doing the super hero shtick before it was even cool to do so since they’ve been around since the time of Quest for Fire; protecting humanity from alien creatures known as Deviants, while also giving us a few pointers in the right direction. Of course they can only influence humanity so much and are forbidden to interfere with human conflicts as decreed by their Space Creators known as Celestials, and over time they just kind of drifted apart as the Deviants became few and far between. Cut to modern day where Sersi (Gemma Chan) is working as a school teacher in London when a SUPER POWERFUL Deviant comes out of nowhere, and she along with fellow Eternals Sprite and Ikaris (Lia McHugh and Richard Madden) have to stop it before it can cause too much damage. Clearly there is a new threat on the horizon if the Deviants are reemerging, so the trio must scour the globe looking for their fellow Eternals (Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Koeghan, Don Lee, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie) and convince them to put aside whatever difference they may have and come back together for a mission to save Earth! Can The Eternals overcome whatever threat is looming over the planet this time? Just what split them up in the first place, and how have the years away from each other changed them? Seriously, I know they’re doing their own thing here but can we at least get ONE Avenger to tag along? It can be one the B-Listers like War Machine or Hawkeye!
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and all the images you see in this review are owned by Disney
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Things are starting to get a bit dicey out there with the latest COVID variant, so we’ll see how many more of the big movies are gonna come to theaters this year or get pushed back once again, so that COULD mean that this movie is the last big tent pole we’ll get for some time; almost fitting that the brief window between the “end of COVID” and “the rise of the Delta” is bookended by Marvel movies. In any case, Shang-Chi is probably the most obscure Marvel character that’s gotten a big release like this since Guardians of the Galaxy, but the mix of old school martial arts flavor to a franchise that’s mostly focused on Super Hero Romps and Space Adventures certainly gives this a unique place in the canon. Does this manage to break the Marvel mold in bold and exciting ways, or is it more of the same from the world’s most dependable film studio? Let’s find out!!
A long time ago in China, a warlord known as Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung) discovers ten magical rings that not only make him a badass warrior but also give him eternal life, so like any conquer with a lot of time on his hands he creates a secret organization of warriors who are always in the background of major global events and are consolidating more and more power. One particular power that Wenwu wishes to get control of is the magic found within the lost city of Ta Lo, and while he doesn’t manage to get through the door he DOES meet the bouncer who tells him to go away. Said bouncer is Ying Li who never allows Wenwu into the city but does fall in love with him and choses to leave it behind to be a part of his world and he, in turn, gives up the life of crime to raise a family. How did that all work out? Well we cut to twenty or so years later where Xu Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), the son of Wenwu and Li is living under an assumed name in San Francisco, so things may not have gone too well on that front. Mom is out of the picture, dad is back to his warlording ways, and his sister Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) is off doing her own thing somewhere else. Shang-Chi is more than happy to while away his boring life with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) but when a bunch of his dad’s thugs attack him on a bus and take the necklace his mother gave him, he knows that he can’t hide any longer and that his sister must be next since she also has a necklace from their mother. Can Shang-Chi and Katy protect his sister from whatever scheme his father is setting into motion and perhaps finally confront the problems that have torn this family apart? What happened in the intervening years that has scattered them across the globe, and does it have anything to do with what Wenwu is planning now? Seriously, why did he take Awkwafina along? Her quick wit and excellent sense of humor are always fun, but there are ninjas all over the place!
Black Widow and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Cate Shortland
Wow, 2020 feels like a million years ago doesn’t it? Not only that, it seems that spy movies were in vogue as not only this movie but The King’s Man and the new James Bond movie were set to come out before finding out the one thing you can’t stealthy murder your way around is a global pandemic. Thankfully things are starting to clear up (though the pandemic is by no means over, GET VACCINATED!) and some of those 2020 holdovers are making their way to theaters. We already got Fast 9 and Spiral, s s turn to save movie theaters with their latest billion dollar blockbuster! Is this spin-off film for one of o now it’s Marvel’ the MCU’s most iconic characters the true start to the next wave of Marvel movies, or is did it miss its chance when the world turned upside down last year? Let’s find out!!
Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run after the events of Captain America: Civil War and is laying low in a trailer somewhere when she gets a message from her long lost spy-sister containing vials of some mysterious substance. She is immediately attacked by a mysterious person in a mechanical suit with a skull painted on the faceplate, and so she goes to see her sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) who first tries to punch her a bunch of times before revealing that the vials are some sort of antidote for a mind control drug that the current crop of Black Widows are injected with; including herself who is only free now after a botched operation that her a face full of the anti-puppet juice. With Yelena now free and Natasha having nothing better to do, the two of them start working together to bring down General Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the scumbag leader of the Black Widows who is now coming after them. To find Dreykov though, they will need the help of their spy-dad Alexei (David Harbour) who was once the Red Guardian (the Captain America equivalent for the Soviet Union) and is now wasting away in prison, as well as the help of their spy-mom Melina (Rachel Weisz) who was a Black Widow herself and still has contacts with the organization. Can this awkward family reunion get Natasha and Yelena the information they need to save the women under Dreykov’s control and end the program once and for all? Will their spy-parents help them on their journey or will they be a bunch of Boomers about it and question why they feel so entitled to not being mind-slaved by the state? How much is Marvel regretting their decision to end Black Widow’s story in Endgame, and how big of a sales pitch did they give to Florence Pugh?
Cruella and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Now I’m sure that 101 Dalmatians is a classic and that Cruella is a great villain in it, but the fact is that it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I just don’t have any attachment or fondness for it. What I DO have attachment and fondness for however is Maleficent which was a brilliant deconstruction of the fairy tale mythos and made an otherwise one note villain into a complex character with depth and pathos. It’s clear that this is the template that Disney is using for this reimagining of Cruella De Vil with a sprinkling of Joker throw in for good measure, and frankly that’s what got me interested in this movie more than whatever connection it has to the Disney classic. Does it manage to be another outside the box interpretation of the Disney formula, or are they scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find anything else that people want to see again? Let’s find out!!
There once was a girl named Estella Miller who had really awesome black and white hair and she knew that one day she would become a world famous fashion designer! That or a professional MMA fighter because every day in school she was getting in fights with the boys and telling teachers off for being fools which eventually forced her beleaguered mother (Emily Beecham) to take her out of the countryside and to the town of London where she may find her place. Along the way however, her mother makes a stop at an old friend’s house, and… well this IS a Disney movie, so it’s not long before things spiral out of control there and Estella is left an orphan through rather ludicrous means. Without anywhere else to go, she heads to London and meets up with two street punks who take her in and as they survive the means streets of London by pick-pocketing for their bread; and this is BEFORE Thatcher’s Britain! As is wont to happen, Estelle does grow up into a bright young woman (Emma Stone) who gets a job working for the biggest fashion designer in the city simply known as The Baroness (Emma Thompson) and for reasons that I shan’t spoil here, Estelle gets VERY cross with The Baroness and decides to assume an alter ego as the Fashionista Cruella who will take London by storm at the expense of her current employer! With the help of her two ruffian friends Jasper and Horace (Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser), will she become the fashion icon that she always dreamed of with getting back at The Baroness as a fun bonus? Is this Estelle just lashing out at the unfairness of the world around her, or perhaps is Estelle the mask that Cruella has been forced to wear this whole time? Perhaps there’s a little Cruella in all of us; just yearning to tell the collective bosses of the world where to shove it!
Mulan and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Niki Caro
I’ll be honest, the animated Mulan wasn’t exactly one of my go to films when I was a kid. I was more of an Aladdin/Pixar fan and while I remember Mulan being GOOD, it never really stuck with me like a lot of other films did. But hey! That’s why Disney is doing all these remakes in the first place, right? To not only cash in on Nostalgia dollars for people who DO remember the original but to try and get the people who didn’t care for it the first time to invest in the property and maybe build a new theme park ride around it. Does this remake of the 1998 classic hold up to and even SURPASS the original, or is this another live action remake from Disney that fails to bring anything new or interesting to the table? Let’s find out!!
China is being attacked by the… Not Huns (Let’s get down to business! To defeat… the Rouran Khaganate!) and it seems they have a witch on their side (Gong Li) that’s wreaking havoc on their outposts along the Silk Road. In order to stop these invaders, the Emperor (Jet Li) orders the conscription of one man from every family in the country, and one of the villages they arrive at (which looks quite a bit like the slums from Kung Fu Hustle) is the home of Hua Mulan (Yifei Liu) and her family. Her father (Tzi Ma) having no sons of his own volunteers to go despite having fought in a previous war and has a disabled leg because of it, but as you know this doesn’t sit well with Mulan and so she goes in her father’s stead; leaving the village in the dead of night and donning the identity of a man. Mulan under the guise of Hua Jun must make it through the intense training of Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) while also keeping her identity as well as her overwhelming strength a secret; lest she bring shame on her family or even be executed by the very country she’s here to defend. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and the awesome witch lady might have the right idea, but Mulan is not about to let a little thing like impending death keep her from protecting her family and her homeland! Will Mulan be able to successfully navigate the men’s world of warfare without her secret being discovered? Who are these villainous rouges attacking China, and what’s driving them on their quest to conquer the country? If they make a sequel to this, will it ALSO be about a feminist revolution in China or will they go in a different direction with it?