Bliss and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios
Directed by Mike Cahill
So hey! Either studios are getting bolder in 2021 and are actually releasing stuff, or I’m finally paying attention and now have about two months’ worth of releases to look forward to across my various streaming services! I’m definitely ready to get back on that movie reviewing horse (even though this review is coming out almost a week after the movie did), and what better film to herald this renewed vigor than a movie literally named after a word for happiness! So does Amazon’s sci-fi take on a less action heavy Matrix (or a less dreamlike Eternal Sunshine) prove to be as good as the title promises, or is the true bliss the moment you decide to turn the movie off? Let’s find out!!
Gregg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is your typical upper middle class miserable white dude. He’s recently divorced, he hates his job, and while he loves his kids they’re pretty much grown now and there seems to be some issues there he doesn’t feel like confronting. Instead, he spends his time drawing pictures of a better life which may be cathartic for him but because that’s ALL he does at work he ends up getting fired. Just as well, I mean the place is a dismal office building with all life and personality scrubbed out of it, but in the real world you can’t just get fired and let everything fall to the wayside. Or can you!? Drinking his misery away, Gregg meets a woman named Isabel Clemens (Salma Hayek) who recognizes him as someone special and whisks him away on an adventure of homelessness and telekinetic powers! Why? Well according to Isabella, this is a fake reality that she built and that nothing here matters! The people are fake, the boredom is fake, the lousy jobs are all fake, and she’s here to show Mr. Wittle that’s he’s not so Wittle after all! Seems like an enticing proposition and there is certainly some evidence to support this, but there are also many questions as well that Isabel either has a convenient technobabble excuse for or is outright hesitant to confront, so does Greg dare to hope that his boring meaningless life can be changed in an instant by this benevolent benefactor? If everything is a simulation though, doesn’t that mean his kids aren’t real either? How would you even define if they are real if the feelings are genuinely there? Can we call Morpheus in to explain this? He’s pretty good at this kind thing.s
Alita: Battle Angel and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Man, I don’t know the first thing about this series! Every time you find out about ONE legendary anime that defined the genre, there pops up another dozen or so that you need to catch up on as well, and I’m a busy guy! I don’t have time to catch up with the stuff I already need to; let alone this one that I’m only now aware of because the movie is coming out! Speaking of which, wasn’t this supposed to come out like a year ago? Granted, the amount of CG on display here is staggering and I can see even the SLIGHTEST hitch in post-production causing massive delays, but being a February burn off instead of summer blockbuster or even winding up in the post-summer slowdown period seems like a bad sign. I don’t know, this is clearly one of those movies that have SO much passion and resources behind them that it can either be a total masterpiece or a hilarious disaster with almost no chance for landing in-between. Are we talking Mad Max: Fury Road, or Battlefield Earth? In either case, we should strap in just to be on the safe side! Let’s find out!!
IN THE YEAR THREE THOUSAND (or some other far off date), the world has basically been reduced to two major cities, Iron City below and the sky city of Zalem above, after the devastation of THE FALL which was a big war hundreds of years ago. Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) is a robo-doctor (as in he fixes robots; not that he is himself a robotic doctor) who scavenges through the trash tossed down by Zalem for useable parts to keep his clinic open for those in need, but one day he finds far more than eh could have ever imagined! He finds the remnants of some kind of robot which he takes home and learns has a human brain as well as some other unique parts which he attaches to a spare robo-body he had lying around and brings her back to life; giving her the name Alita which no doubt has some significance we’ll learn about later on in the movie. Alita 9Rosa Salazar) has no memory of who she was before being tossed in the garbage which is sad to be sure, but the local badboy Hugo (Keean Johnson) as well as the totally rad sport of Motorball at least help to pass the time as she tries to find answers to her past. Well needless to say as the movie goes along, we find answers to more and more of these questions which lead to Alita being put in more and more danger as others discover who she is as well. Primarily, she starts getting pursued by the local kingpin Vector (Mahershala Ali) who has connections to everyone in town; including Dr. Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) who is helping him in exchange for a chance to reach the shiny city in the sky. Along the way she’ll make friends, encounter enemies, and even have to deal with insufferable douchebags like the robo-bounty hunter Zapan (Ed Skrein) who coincidentally seems to hold yet another piece to Alita’s past. Can Alita survive long enough in this harsh world to learn who she really is? Just how powerful is she, and how far will she go to protect those she cares about? Wait, so if she was built to be an ULTIMATE WARRIOR, why did they give her the brain of a teenager!?
Bumblebee and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Travis Knight
The thing about Transformers, at least for me, is that it’s only ever existed as the Michael Bay movies. I never watched the original series, any of its spin-offs, and I’ve only played one of the games, so if nothing else this movie has a rather low bar to clear if it wants to be considered “good”. Now that said, it’s got some heavy competition right now what with the new Spider-Man movie not just being GOOD but PHENOMENAL, and there are plenty of others out right now that this isn’t gonna stack favorably against if it’s ONLY trying to be better than what Bay was putting out. Still, it’s got a lot going for it what with Hailee Steinfeld AND the recently launched into the mainstream John Cena filling out the cast along with the Laika animation guy stepping in for Bay this time around. Does this prequel manage to take this tired and overblown franchise in a fresh new direction, or is the engine underneath it still the same despite the shiny new coat of paint? Let’s find out!!
Back in the long ago days of the late eighties (when Sony Walkmans walked the Earth), the war for Cybertron was reaching its peak as the Decepticons had pushed the Autobot rebels off the planet with little hope of taking it back. The leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), has tasked B-127 (Dylan O’Brien) with scouting a far off planet that may serve as their new base of operations so they can regroup and finally stop the Decepticons once and for all; a desperate plan to be sure, but its not like anyone else is coming up wit ha better one. So B-127 speeds off to Earth but was followed by a Decepticon warrior! Oh no! The ensuing battle leaves the Decepticon dead, but it leaves a few humans worse for wear including Super Solider from Sector 7 Jack Burns (John Cena) as well as B-127 ending up heavily damaged (even losing his voice in the process) and… I guess robo-hibernates for some time to recharge his batteries. Some time passes (not sure if it’s months or years) and B-127 is found in a junkyard by Charlie Watson (Haille Steinfeld) who takes him home and manages to get him running again. He wakes up, shows himself to be a robot to Charlie albeit it with no memories which were all damaged in the fight, and… I think he accidentally sets off some sort of tracking beacon that two Decepticons (Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux) a few planets away seem to have heard which conveniently gives us antagonists to fight against in the third act. Until then, Charlie names B-127 Bumblebee and tries to teach him how to blend in the human world while also taking him for joy rides, prank wars, and emotional character arcs for both her and her new robot buddy who’s not sure who he is or what his place in this strange world is. Will Charlie and Bumblebee learn to deal with their traumas and find a new lease on life by beating up robots and taking bullies down a peg? What will John Cena do when he finds out the robot that nearly killed him is still functional, and will it involve the Five Knuckle Shuffle? Wait a minute… finding a robot in a junkyard that was meant to fight off a hostile alien force but got lost along the way… isn’t this the plot to Megas XLR?
Love Simon and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Greg Berlanti
Does anyone else think we’re at the point where we need to come up with a better way of describing movies like this one other than “Like a John Hughes movie”? As much as those movies are a touchstone in popular culture, the phrase a bit played out at this point, and on top that movies such as this one, despite being quite faithful to the overall formula and tone that he developed, feels like something that couldn’t have (even if it SHOULD have) been made in his time. I mean I GUESS we could go with “teenage coming of age story”, but that still doesn’t feel like it fully encapsulates the specific high school angst and post puberty struggles of self-discovery that made us develop the term in the first place. Anyway, I’m just rambling here as I honestly had no idea of this movie’s existence until it showed up at my local theater, but I am happy that we’re getting an ACTUAL LGBTQIA+ teen comedy as that kind of movie is a lot more in my wheelhouse than the super serious LGBTQIA+ films like Moonlight or even Carol. Does this manage to succeed in being just as good if not better than its straight peers in the genre, or is its good intentions just not enough to carry this film all the way through its run time? Let’s find out!!
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is your typical teenager, in that he’s not quite sure about his place in the world and has secrets that he doesn’t feel like sharing with the rest of the world. As the audience though, we’re privy to ALL that information and we find out right away that Simon is in fact gay but hasn’t come out yet; not to his friends Leah, Abby, and Nick (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr), nor to his parents (Josh Duhmael and Jennifer Garner) and little sister (Talitha Bateman). He has his reasons for doing so and it’s not like there’s a LAW that says you have to do it as soon as you know, so his plan is to just continue pining after hot dudes while hiding any trace that he’s actually doing so! Simple enough, right!? Well… not necessarily. It turns out that there’s ANOTHER closeted gay dude in school who posts an anonymous letter on the school’s blog under the pseudonym Blue and leaves an e-mail address for people to contact him at. Simon on a whim decides to reach out to him (using a pseudonym as well) which leads to a flurry of back and forth e-mails as Simon starts to develop feelings for this unknown “Blue” person. However, since this IS a movie about teenagers, there has to be SOME sort of disaster and in this case it’s the nerdy kid Martin (Logan Miller) who finds Simon’s letters and tries to set up an “arrangement” (*cough* Blackmail *cough*) where Simon will help him clean up his act, take better care of himself, and become a much more attractive and emotionally available person which will help him meet awesome women who think he’s awesome and they can have awesome dates together. At least that’s what I’m sure is going through MARTIN’S head to make this sound so much more innocent, but what it breaks down to is Simon (under threat of being forcibly outed) having to arrange dates between Martin and Abby who the former has a crush on. Yeah, not the BEST situation to be in all things considered, and worse yet he might end up losing his chances with Blue who might get scared off if Simon is forcibly outed; thinking he might be next if he keeps contacting him. Can Simon juggle this rough situation with his everyday duties of being the typical American teenager? Will Martin make good on his threats and just how far will Simon have to go to keep that from happening? How is it that EVERYONE’S teenage years suck!? You’d think at least ONE person would luck out at some point!