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?
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!?
Spider-Man: Far From Home and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Jon Watts
Well now that we’re FINALLY done with Thanos (and James Gunn is back on Guardians 3), we can finally get things back on track, right? I mean sure, we needed a nice big climatic sendoff for the big stars that helped bring this franchise to life, but now that the party’s over things have got to keep going without them and the MCU, if they’ve done NOTHING else, have managed to create something that can go on even after closing the book on some of its biggest characters. Still, there’s a big ol’ elephant in the room (or perhaps SPIDER-PIG in the room!) called Into the Spider-Verse that came out between the last Tom Holland film and this one which frankly blew Homecoming out of the water. Homecoming is still great, but Into the Spider-Verse? Woo boy is that a hard act to follow! Can this Post Thanos and Post Spider-Verse entry into the MCU cement itself as the first step to the future of this franchise, or have we already seen the best this version of the hero has to offer and will be left wanting for something more? Let’s find out!!
So hey! That whole… dead for five years thing was pretty rough, wasn’t it? Well the world keeps on turning I suppose and that’s definitely true for Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as well as the entire cast from the first Spider-Man movie who JUST SO HAPPENED to be blinked out of existence as well which makes sense to me because this is a movie and everyone liked the cast from the first film. This includes Ned (Jacob Batalon), Mary Jane (Zendaya), and even Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori); all of whom as well as a couple of other students from Peter’s school are going on a European field trip. Frankly, Peter could use the time off considering how much he’s had to go through in the past… I guess it’s only been a few months for him, and after… well ENDGAME SPOILERS WILL BE IN THE REST OF THIS REVIEW SO LOOK AWAY NOW, Tony died saving the universe, he’s been having trouble coping with this whole “superhero” thing which has gotten a lot more real than just being a dude doing back flips on roofs and stopping two bit muggers. Of course nothing can be that easy for good ol’ Peter Parker because Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) along with Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are trying to pull him into this “save the world” situation where elemental monsters from another dimension are tearing up cities all over the world, and with the Avengers kinda doing their own thing (the ones who aren’t dead at least) all they’ve got to work with is this kid and some dude named Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) who claims to have come from the same alternate dimension as the elementals and wants to help us stop them. Oh, and at some point people start calling him “Mysterio” for some reason, but I’m sure that’s fine. This is all WAY more than Peter was ready to handle so soon, but then again if he’s not ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and save the world, was he ever truly worth of being Tony’s protégé and a possible future Avenger? Can the world possibly get along fine with the new guys out there like the square jawed and overly capable Mysterio fellow to let Peter just be a kid for once? Seriously, considering where he ends up in Into the Spider-Verse, he might as well quit now. Yes, EITHER version of Peter in that movie!
Dark Phoenix and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Simon Kinberg
I’ve probably been nicer than most about the X-Men franchise, going so far as to be somewhat positive about Apocalypse, and even I can’t be bothered to muster any enthusiasm for The Last Stand: Remastered. I mean I GUESS I can see why Fox would want to prove that it was the other guy’s fault and not their own, and it certainly worked well enough for Dexter Fletcher, but with this franchise being so easily overshadowed by Deadpool, the MCU, and even some of the better DC films, it’s starting to feel more Quixotic than artistically advisable. Still, I have been surprised by movies I didn’t expect much out of before, and it’s not like they have much to lose considering this franchise is more or less done whether they make this movie or not, so hey! Let’s see if Fox can pull it off one more time for old time’s sake!
It’s the radical nineties for the X-Men with Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his crew of charismatic comrades more popular than ever; much like the ACTUAL nineties. Newcomers Jean Grey, Scott Summers, Ororo Munroe, and Kurt Wagner (Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Kodi Smit-McPhee) are fitting in well enough, Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) barely contained annoyance with all of this is about as same as usual which is greatly contrasted with Beast (Nicholas Hoult) who looks like he couldn’t be happier to be there, and Quicksilver (Even Peters) is… around. ANYWAY! The big difference in this film that I alluded to just now which I don’t BELIEVE was the case last time is that The X-Men have become household names and everyone wants to be them! No more mutant discrimination, at least not outright, and all the jerk mutants went with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to some island somewhere to keep things nice and peaceful. Why, the only thing that could ruin this perfect existence is if one of the high profile mutants on Xavier’s team went off and started blowing stuff up, but what are the odds of THAT happening!? Yeah, so Jean Grey gets hit by some sort of cosmic ray in the beginning of the film during an astronaut rescue, and it seems to have overcharged her system to the point that she can barely control her powers as well as her emotions; the latter of which is exacerbated by some dark secrets she’s made keenly aware of and have made things rather awkward at the academy. With one big public relations nightmare that could lead to Mutant internment AGAIN, Xavier and his crew have to find out what’s happening to Jean and if there’s any way to save her from whatever it is that will either destroy her from the inside or give her enough power to destroy us all from the outside. Oh, and Jessica Chastain is in this somewhere in the background. I’m sure she can’t be up to any good though! Will Jean Grey succumb to the power she’s been granted and become the worst enemy the X-Men have ever faced? Will Xavier finally learn that despite his idealistic rhetoric that he’s made huge mistakes in the past that could bring the world closer to destruction than anything his more militant counterpart ever came up with? If this is worse than X3, does Fox get like a Lifetime Achievement award for how badly they can ruin a franchise? I mean they should have already gotten one for their Fantastic Four movies, but you know the Academy! Give it to them when convenient; not when they deserve it!
Avengers: Endgame and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
My displeasure of Infinity War is well documented in both my review and the follow up piece I did, so I was frankly not looking forward to this one. Still, the two films they’ve done since then, Ant-Man and The Wasp as well as Captain Marvel, were really great entries in the genre and confirmed that Marvel could still make a great film if they wanted to, and if nothing else it’ll be worth ripping off this Band-Aid once and for all and letting things get back on track before Thanos butting his ugly purple head in. So hey, if I HAVE to be here I might as well try and find something to enjoy about it! Is this the perfect conclusion to not just Infinity War but to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it currently exists, or does the first iteration of this franchise and these characters continue the utter disappointment from the LAST time we saw them? Let’s find out!!
After the events of Infinity War which (SPOILER ALERT) ended with Thanos (Josh Brolin snapping his fingers and wiping out half of all living creatures in the universe, the remaining Avengers are stuck in a world on the brink of collapsing and with no real way to fix things. I mean, they could go after Thanos and kick his head around a bit, especially now that Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is here to provide some cosmic backup, but would that even fix anything at this point? The real question is whether or not those people can be brought back, Thanos or not, and after some time with no ideas they get a visit from one of the lesser known among them Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) who might just have the answer they’re looking for what with his experiences in the Quantum Realm and all that entails. The remaining Avengers which include Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), uh… whatever name Rhodes is going under now (Don Cheadle), as well as honorary members Rocket (Bradly Cooper and Sean Gunn) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), and a barely held together Hawkeye (Jeremey Renner), now have a mission in place (and a rather odd one at that) to bring things back to the way they were before, but it’s incredibly risky and could actually make things worse if they DON’T succeed. At even less than half their usual strength since everyone is still dealing with the trauma of what happened can The Avengers manage to pull off one more spectacular feat of heroism against the one foe they couldn’t overcome? What dangers will they have to face along the way, and are all of them able to confront them with steadfast determination and the will necessary to succeed? If this IS gonna be the last one of THIS specific kind of Marvel movie… maybe we could get a Star Wars crossover? I mean it’s now or never, right?
Captain Marvel and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
You know, it’d be nice if a Marvel movie can come out and NOT bring out the worst of the man babies which has sadly become an almost yearly ritual that the rest of us have to deal with. Now admittedly I was something of a crybaby when I was pretty scathing about Infinity War, but at least I WAITED until I saw the movie and… you know… FORMED MY OWN OPINION ABOUT IT! I didn’t go into it assuming it was going to be bad or pass of blatant lies as a “review” to tank an arbitrary number like an alarming number of people took time out of their day to do! The amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth that this movie generated is phenomenal, and frankly it’s a BIT worrying at this point for the most popular thing in the world to somehow also be the largest lightening rod of faux controversy in cinema. It’d be nice if something other than the latest Disney Money Maker can be talked about without the SAD BOY PATROL rearing their ugly heads and derailing ACTUAL conversations that people care about, but I guess we don’t get to choose our villains who in this day and age are less James Moriarty and more The Collector from that one Treehouse of Horror episode. Anyway, we’re all here to talk about the movie, so let’s cut through the nonsense and look at what all the hubbub’s about! Is this a cinematic masterpiece that will crush the patriarchy once and for all, or did all these crying losers utterly lose their cool over a not especially good superhero movie? Let’s find out!!
Vers (Brie Larson) is a refugee on a Kree planet who was found by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and trained to be a warrior to fight the enemy that left her for dead and with no memory; an enemy of shape shifting green dudes known as THE SKRULL! Vers is not only tough but she has some sort of energy blast power thingy that makes her an effective hammer to smash things with, but she’s still struggling to be a team player which becomes an issue on her first mission with Yon-Rogg and his crew to extract a double agent before the Skrull find him. The mission inevitably goes wrong, Vers is captured but manages to escape, and so she and a bunch of Skrull soldiers including their commanding officer Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) crash land on Earth which so far has been left unaware of the Kree/Skrull conflict. Not long after landing, she meets up with a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative named Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) who decides that the enemy of my enemy is my friend (at least for now) and is helping her find the Skrulls and whatever it is that led them to Earth in the first place. Eventually Vers learns that she’s actually FROM Earth and that her real name is Carol Danvers which is quite a shock to her considering that she was supposedly a refugee from another planet, so on top of stopping the Skrull from destroying this planet like they have to so many others, she has to find out exactly who she is, why she ended up on a Kree planet, and what this would mean for her life going forward. Can Carol find the secrets of her past, and will they be the key finding her true place in the universe? What exactly are the Skrull planning, and can Carol’s new perspective lead her to finding a way to end this conflict once and for all? Seriously, why were there SO many creepy dudes combing through every single detail before this movie came out!? Do they really think it makes them look smart and credible!?
We’re back with Part 2 of this list! Let’s not waste any time and jump right into the games!!
Developed by Insomniac Games
Am I getting too old for this? I might be getting too old for this. As I’m sure is a common consensus among those of us over twenty-five playing this game, I still feel a stronger connection to Spider-Man 2 from all the way back in the stone age than this one despite it still managing to be one of the best games I’ve played this year even if it can’t quite surpass my nostalgia for the one with Bruce Campbell in it. I don’t know, I just feel that the new game is guiding me too much in my web swings; pulling visual tricks or redirecting my momentum to minimize mistakes, and while I will never claim that harder games are inherently better (or that players just need to “git gud”), I found the hectic and less controlled web slinging in Spider-Man 2 to be more rewarding and much more engaging on long trips to far off objective markers. Other than that, the game is an improvement in every way. The combat is fluid and allows for lots of varied combos, I LOVE it whenever a level has multiple levels so you can swoop in, kick butt, swing away, and come back to smash some faces one floor below, and even though the stealth sections are pretty unengaging, they at least function well enough. That said, it can get a bit monotonous with some of the combat sections and I would have gladly traded all the battle challenges on the map for just one more fine-tuned and well-crafted story stages like the skyscraper one that was shown in the trailer. Also, it felt a bit… anachronistic I guess to have the bad guys be SO defined by their Asian culture especially since the game doesn’t have much to counterbalance that. When a minority group of people is almost exclusively shown to be terrorist (Yuri Watanabe is the only other Asian character of note), well at that point you’re basically recreating that one episode of Sherlock that’s always gonna be a bit uncomfortable to watch. Still, this is a Spider-Man game that, at least for the modern era, will define what it means to be a Super-Hero game, and while I’ll always carry a torch for the PS2 game I won’t begrudge the new generation for having a version made for them to enjoy.
Are we done with the good stuff of 2018 already!? It’s really starting to get a bit annoying how lopsided things have gotten with just how much bad there is to get through compared to the good, but as your travel guide through the highlights of the year that came before I will be here to fulfill my duty and give you an idea of just how bad movies had gotten in 2018! Okay, it wasn’t a SPECTACULARLY bad year at the movies as my initial assessment of good versus bad films I reviewed this year came out to pretty even split, but it’s not as much fun making these WORST THINGS EVER lists when everyday life is pretty much that already. At the very least, I hope that I turned at least some of the negativity you’re about to see on this list into something that’s at least informative enough to justify my salty attitude! Anyway, we might as well dive in head first and hope we come out on the other side no worse for wear! LET’S GET STARTED!!
Dishonorable Mentions: Robin Hood & Holmes and Watson
I figured I’d start this list with something a little light as both of these movies are utterly DREADFUL, but I really couldn’t get too mad at either one of them. Robin Hood is certainly the more watchable of the two as its mistakes are downright laughable, but even with Holmes and Watson being an unfunny and painfully boring slog to sit through it at least didn’t have some really messed up message or an utter scumbag on screen. If nothing else, these two are more or less the baseline for what would qualify as a WORST OF THE YEAR contender. These movies are terrible, but they don’t have something extra to make it a MEANINGFUL selection for highlighting on these lists. Robin Hood’s earnestness and some decent (if utterly anachronistic) designs as well as how much fun I had laughing at its many ridiculous ideas such as crossbows that work EXACTLY like pistols or making a visual allegories between the Crusades and the War on Terror balanced out its worst moments. Holmes and Watson is a terrible comedy but ultimately a harmless one which means that even if it doesn’t make ME laugh it’s not something that is active detriment to the genre; something we GENUINELY have to worry about now with more comedians coming out as rather terrible people in recent years. I don’t recommend you watching EITHER of these movies, but if you did and your baffled why they didn’t actually make it on the list, just know that it has to be a lot worse (or at least terrible in a uniquely specific and off-putting way) for it to be listed below. Speaking of which, let’s get the click-bait one out of the way first!
At this point, the only thing more cliché than being thankful that the preceding year has finally come to a close is whiny Star Wars fans being wrong about The Last Jedi. Yes, I am in fact THANKFUL that we have finally gotten out of the horror show that was 2018, but 2019 looks to be a lot more of the same, albeit with a SLIGHTLY less destructive Congress and a lot more speculation on the 2020 election. Jeez, the idea is so deflating to me that I’m actually kind of glad to take one last look at the preceding year before charging face first into whatever nightmares 2019 will surely have for us. Anyway! Let’s take a look at the GOOD movies that came out and hope that the year ahead of us will bring us even more great films to love! ON WITH THE LIST!!
Honorable Mentions: Black Panther & Ant-Man and the Wasp
While Marvel’s usual output is at a consistently decent quality, this was a year of great highs and one PHENOMENAL low for the company which we’ll get to on the bad list. On the good side though, these are the first two movies they’ve released since I’ve started doing these lists that have come close to making it on the top ten, and frankly they are my favorite films that they’ve released in some time with the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which arguably should have been included on last year’s list. Black Panther, while still feeling a bit too conventional to the Marvel Formula and having a few oddly placed ideas here and there (how does a civilization THIS advanced still determine their leader through DEATH MATCHES!?) was quite the revelation and became something of a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the year which we’ll get to further down on this list, and while I’m not quite on board with it winning for Best Picture, I do see where a lot of people who are advocating for it are coming from. Ant-Man and the Wasp on the other hand felt like something new as well, albeit in a much less radical way as Black Panther, and is the template I’d like to see from Marvel films going forward; where there’s room for films that don’t take themselves QUITE as seriously and don’t hinge the fate of the world on the outcome of their adventure. Sony and WB might be gathering a bit of steam with their recent films, but this year showed once again that it’s gonna take a lot more to unseat Marvel and Disney from their well-deserved throne of money, and hopefully THESE are the kind of films we’ll be getting from them going forward instead of… well we’ll get to that one later.