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?
The New Mutants and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Studios
Directed by Josh Boone
I was going to the movies multiple times a week for YEARS before this pandemic hit, and one of the things I kept seeing over and again was trailers for this movie. Every few months there’d be another one but with a different release date on it, and it got so ridiculously long that I vowed to be there opening day to see what kind of nonsense they were trying to cover up in post-production. Then the world came to an end and wouldn’t you know it? One of the first movies to go to theaters AND NOWHERE ELSE happened to be this one. All was not lost however as it turns out there’s a drive in theater nearby (the ONLY place I’ll go to see a movie right now) and they actually had this movie on their schedule, and so I was able to go out and keep that promise I made to myself all those years ago without having to take an unnecessary risk of CATCHING A POTENTIALLY LIFE THREATENING DISEASE in the process! So with all that buildup, with all the shakeups at the studio, and with all the world events that have broken the world between the first teaser trailer to now, does the movie manage to be any good? Did all the extra time working on it prove to be a fruitful endeavor, or are they hoping that the threat of getting sick would be enough for them to sneak this out without anybody noticing? Let’s find out!!
Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) finds herself stuck inside of a hospital of some sorts with a bunch of other young people under the watchful eyes of Dr. Reyes (Alice Braga) who informs her that her family is dead and that she’s here because she PROBABLY caused it. Why? Well because she’s a mutant of course, and so is everyone else here! We’ve got Sam (Charlie Heaton) who can go fast and make things explode, Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy) who… has some sort of teleportation and sword fighting powers, Roberto (Henry Zaga) who’s the most dudebro dude ever and also might have fire powers, and Rahne (Massie Williams) who is… well she’s just a werewolf. I didn’t realize that fell under MUTANT powers, but I guess you can call anything a mutant power if you try hard enough. In any case, they’re all stuck in here with the discount Nurse Ratched who’s trying to get them to learn to control their powers through… group therapy sessions I guess, and clearly has some sinister motivations for keeping them all there that they’re vaguely aware of but none too concerned about. Dani, still trying to figure out exactly what happened to her father and not even knowing what her own super power is, tries to make the most of this very bizarre situation which only gets more disturbing once everyone starts having terrifying dreams or something relating to their past traumas which is certainly not making the overall dingy atmosphere of this place any more cheery. What exactly are Dani’s powers and are they in any way connected to the strange goings on at the hospital? What does Dr. Reyes have planned for them once she’s deemed them to be “better”, and is it somehow worse than having stay here? Are they actually stuck in some sort of Groundhog’s Day time loop which is why it feels like this movie’s been around for a hundred years!?
Artemis Fowl and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
I don’t think I’ve seen a GOOD new movie since the theaters closed up which is probably no coincidence as any studio who thinks their film will earn MONEY will probably want to wait until theaters are open again to take their chances on a strong weekend box office. It certainly hasn’t improved my general outlook in this very challenging time, but Disney has a chance to lift the spirits of the world by giving us a fantastic adventure film that the whole family can enjoy! Is this the YA cash cow that Disney’s been looking for!? Let’s find out!!
Artemis Fowl Jr (Ferdia Shaw) is the son of famed… artifact collector or something, Artemis Fowl Sr (Clin Farrell); both of whom live a happy little life in a giant coastal mansion with their not-butler Domovi Butler (Nonso Anozie). The only problem is that dear old dad has a habit of jetting off to another adventure in artifact “collecting” which leaves little Artite with little more to do than win dozens of awards at school and be a pompous jerk about it because on top of being super-rich he’s also a super-genius with a bad attitude. Everything changes however when one of his father’s trips ends with his yacht sinking in the ocean and somehow it also comes out that he’s actually a master thief. In reality, he’s been captured by an EVIL fairy and tells little Artie to give them the MAGICAL MACGUFFIN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY, or else his dad is going to die. Oh yeah, fairies and other magical stuff are in this movie which comes in about as abruptly as that sentence did and little Artie gets over the shocking revelation just as quickly. It turns out the MAGICAL MACGUFFIN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY is some artifact from the land of the fairies which is located underground (glad we never ran into any of THOSE cities amongst all the fracking, am I right?) and Magic Cop Julius Root (Judi Dench) is adamant about finding it. One of her subordinates Officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) has a personal stake in finding this artifact so she goes rogue and gets… let’s say ENTANGLED with Little Artie’s situation and through further complications, the ENTIRE Magic Army is on Artie Jr’s doorstop and are looking to drag him out of there with the help of a giant dwarf named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) who they need for… reasons I suppose. Using only his wits, the help of his non-butler, and even the help of his non-butler’s niece who is ALSO a super genius and kung-fu expert, he must find a way to locate the artifact, get the Magic po-po off his lawn, and try to wrangle an entire novel’s worth of world-building and character development into less than ninety minutes of screen time. Can Artie Jr outsmart the Magic Cops with this heightened intellect and penchant for slick suits? What is the mysterious evil fairy planning, and what will happen if the MAGICAL MACGUFFIN OF ULTIMATE DESTINY were to fall into their hands? Is this grab bag of every other fantasy movie even CLOSE to the sum of its blatantly lifted parts!?
Onward and all the images you see in this review are owned by Pixar and Walt Disney Studio Motion PIctures
Directed by Dan Scanlon
It’s no secret that I’ve been pretty down on Pixar this past decade. On the one hand, we DID get Coco and I guess Inside Out was just fine, but this was also the decade that brought us redundant sequels that I just failed to connect with; particularly Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 which everyone else seemed to enjoy a heck of a lot more than I did. Because of this and the somewhat underwhelming trailers we got (It’s fantasy AND modern AT THE SAME TIME!?), I’m not exactly looking forward to seeing this kid friendly version of Bright, but that’s just the pessimistic side of me talking and maybe this really will be another return to form for the venerable studio. Is this a road trip for the ages and the sequel to Brütal Legend we’ve all been secretly hoping for, or is this a mythical folly more disastrous than that Warcraft movie you’ve already forgotten about? Let’s find out!!
Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is your typical Elf teenager; aspiring to be Legolas but more like The Elf on a Shelf. He’s gangly, really quiet, and to some people he might come off as a bit creepy considering his lack of social skills. VERY different from his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) who is basically the unholy offspring (in the cool Rock N Roll sort of way) of Andy Dwyer and Jack Black; spending most of his times talking theatrically, creating cool-tastic stories for his knock off D&D campaigns, and decidedly not getting a job or moving out. Some of his arrested development issues as well as Ian’s social anxieties can be traced back to their father who died of an illness right before Ian was born, and there’s a lot of unhandled baggage there despite the efforts of their mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus ) to make a happy home and the stern if bumbling guidance of their mom’s new boyfriend Officer Bronco (Mel Rodriguez). On Ian’s sixteenth birthday however, that all changes when their mother gives him a gift from his late father that she was instructed to hold off on until this day, and it turns out that their dad was a wizard who came up with a spell to bring him BACK FROM THE DEAD for one day so that he can see how great his sons turned out. Sure! Just ask the Elric brothers how well this worked out for them! Well it KIND of works out as Ian is only able to bring back the bottom half of their dad and they now need to go on an EPIC QUEST TO FIND A NEW GEM FOR MAGIC STAFF, and cast the REST of the spell before the 24 hours are up. Can Ian and Barley find the mythical Phoenix Gem and see their father one last time? Who exactly WAS their father and how far does Ian want to go with these new magic gifts that he’s discovered? Will Barley put him through the Rocky Training Montage of his life!? He certainly has the right music for it!
Would it be inappropriate to do the Darth Vader “NOOOO” right now? Because I feel like doing the Darth Vader “NOOOO” right now. I don’t want this season to be over! Heck, I need this show more than I did BEFORE seeing The Rise of Skywalker! What am I supposed to do between now and whenever the heck season 2 comes out!? Read fan fiction!? Play that Star Wars Destiny thing!? On top of that, what is Disney Plus supposed to offer me between now and then? They don’t even have the Goofy sports cartoons, let alone the REALLY good stuff like No Smoking!! Does this season end on a high note which would make it the best Star Wars thing since The Last Jedi, or will this be a bigger disappointment to everyone than The Return of Skywalker? Let’s find out!! Oh, and today I think we’ll go with… Walter and Jesse. I know we used a DIFFERENT Walter last time, but I had no idea that Gus was going to show up in that episode, so I’m using that name again for this one!!
The episode begins right after the end of the last one; with two storm troopers on speeder bikes heading back to the city to deliver Jesse to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and they are waiting just on the outskirts for a signal that it’s okay to bring the little bugger to him. What happens next is one of the best scenes in the entire series as the two Stormtroopers played by Adam Pally and Jason Sudeikis just start chatting and doing random incidental things for like five minutes! They argue, they shoot their blasters at a tin can (missing obviously), and they even punch Jesse in the head a few times just so you don’t forget that they’re jerks. I’ve always had a fascination with henchmen and I love it whenever something like this takes a moment to give them the spotlight, and this scene doesn’t disappoint as it is simultaneously REALLY funny but also distressing as they really do clock that kid a couple of times which makes you hope that he uses his force powers to snap their necks and leave their corpses in hilarious poses. Disney? If you want to throw a few costumes at me, I will make you a storm trooper series! Just say the word!! Sadly this isn’t the entirety of the episode, but the scene does have a great payoff as the IG-unit (now the IG-Nanny I guess) shows up, rips one guy’s arm out of its socket and bashes the other’s head repeatedly into his own speeder. Luckily the other speeder remained unharmed and IG-Nanny goes off with Jesse to presumably somewhere safe. My question is where was the IG-Nanny when Nick Nolte was running to the ship? He was within spitting distance of it, and yet IG-Nanny couldn’t have provided some cover fire!?
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by JJ Abrams
So here we are once again, though I guess things are a little bit different since we last got a Star Wars movie with a number at the end of it. Whatever problems you may personally have with The Last Jedi (I have my own as well!), it certainly didn’t justify whatever the Fandom Menace was and only ended up souring people on Star Wars rather than provide constructive criticism of it. Seriously, if you’ve made MULTIPLE hour long videos letting people know just how much you dislike a movie, there’s probably something else going on than just critical analysis. With all that negativity surrounding the trilogy’s middle entry (from I must stress a VERY small if VERY vocal minority of people), there was a lot of interesting energy going into this final film as Lucasfilm and Disney were either going to ignore the toxicity and continue with what Johnson started, or they were gonna thread the needled of appeasing those people while also not losing the overwhelming majority of the audience that understood and appreciated what Johnson was going for. Do they succeed in stitching this fandom back together (or better yet unambiguously denouncing and excising the toxic parts of) with one great movie to finish of the Saga of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo? Let’s find out!!
After narrowly escaping destruction in The Last Jedi, the Resistance has started to grow its ranks once again on a well-hidden planet where Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her Jedi training with Master Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is now Emperor of the First Order has been searching for Emperor Palaptine (Ian McDiarmid) ever since a mysterious broadcast from the dead guy went out across the galaxy, and he eventually succeeds in finding some sort of tracking beacon that leads him right to his mysterious and hard to reach planet. It seems that Palpatine is still somehow alive (I’ll say The Force did it) and has an unstoppable military force waiting to be unleashed on the galaxy that Kylo can control IF he brings him Rey. The Resistance learns of this overwhelming power that Palpatine has at the ready from a mission that Poe and Finn (Oscar Isaac and John Boyega) just barely manage to complete and survive so now there’s a clear ticking clock that the Resistance is working against in order to stop The First Order once and for all; get to Palpatine’s planet and destroy its fleet before it can leave port on Doom Planet. Rey, Poe, Finn, and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo)take it upon themselves to search for one of those tracking beacons that Kylo Ren used to find Palpatine’s planet and start looking into The Resistance’s past as well as the Empire’s past in order to find it and maybe a few more answers along the way. Will our quartet of space heroes find a way to stop Palpatine once and for all; a task that as it turns out Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader weren’t up to? What will Kylo Ren do to stop them from finding the beacon, and what agendas does he have of his own? Will this movie FINALLY make those angry Star Wars fans finally happy? Well of course not, but will it make the other ninety-nine percent of Star Wars fans happy!?
We’re back with the further adventures of Mando and Baby, though frankly I would have preferred if they had just waited a week to release this episode instead of releasing it so soon after the last one. This is the busiest time of the year and you throw THIS at me at the same time I’m doing a million other things; INCLUDING watching your new Star Wars movie!? So if you’re wondering why this is so late, that would be the reason; because Disney are huge jerks for giving us too much to enjoy all at once! In any case, even with a few minor bumps in the road here and there I’ve enjoyed every episode of this series and will certainly be sad to see the season come to an end in just a few more days. Does this episode continue give us high quality Star Wars adventure on the small screen, or are they hoping to give us an episode so bad that we won’t be knocking on their door every day to give us season two right the heck now? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with… Let’s go with Walter and Buddy (Tis the season!) flying around in their space ship when Walter gets a message from Carl Weathers who we haven’t seen since episode three. It’s a very interesting one that sets up yet another trope of the classic western and pulp movies; i.e. the convoluted double cross where Carl Weathers offers Walter a chance to clear his name with the guild if he goes on one more assignment for them. It turns out that The Guild trusting Werner Herzog and his fascists militia turned out to be a bad idea (WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED!?) as Herzog has since grown his forces and has basically taken over the planet of Navarro which is where all this started and where Carl Weathers resides. If Walter will come back with the baby and go through a mock exchange with Buddy to Herzog, that will get him close enough to put a bullet in the man’s head; ending his rule, ending the chase, and clearing Walter’s name once and for all. It’s a very enticing offer to be sure, but the amount of trust that Walter is being asked to impart to Carl Weathers is high and at any step in this process it could turn out to be one big trap. That’s why he needs a few cards close to his chest if he’s going to go through with this, and what better backup than Cara Dune (Gina Carano) who already help Walter protect the kid back in episode four, so perhaps she can be trusted to not stab him in the back; especially when she finds out that the dude they’re bumping off is an ex-Imperial scumbag. Apparently that’s a bit of a sore spot for her, but as with everything in this episode there’s always the threat of mistrust and double cross so I’d keep my eye on her just in case!