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.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Jeff Fowler
The first Sonic movie didn’t really do it for me, but I could at least appreciate the parts of it that were well put together as well as the few flashes of fun Sonic nonsense peppered throughout; especially the song from the credits! I still listen to that pretty regularly and frankly it was all I really needed from Sonic on the big screen. I’ll just keep reading the comics and playing the games over her while Paramount and SEGA keep the brand relevant with run-of-the-mill family movies. Then they started showing trailers for this one that had Knuckles in it and a more game-accurate Eggman, so perhaps they plan to lean harder and harder into the fan service with each subsequent film. It seems to be working since this has already made more money than the original film, but does the deluge of recognizable characters and iconography lead to a better movie, or is this just a cynical attempt to fleece the fans on promises they can’t deliver? Let’s find out!!
Following the events of the first movie, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is living with Tom and Maddie (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter) and everyone just seems to be cool with the space hedgehog doing his thing throughout the state of Washington. Sure, maybe he’s a little overzealous with his Blue Batman shtick, but who can blame him now that he has full(ish) control of his speed powers? Well, he may just get a bit more than he wished for when Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) manages to escape the mushroom planet with the help of a red Echidna named Knuckles (Idris Elba) and they have a few words for the quip spouting rodent. Fortunately, he’s rescued by another mysterious creature, Tails the fox (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) who fills him in on what’s going on and why Knuckles is after him. Something from Sonic’s past leads directly to an ultimate power known as the Master Emerald and Knuckles is heck bent on finding it while Robotnik is just kind of along for the ride and will probably do something nefarious to everyone by the end of this. With such an unstoppable power at stake, Sonic and Tails must sift through his past to find the pieces necessary for finding the Master Emerald and protecting the world as we know it. Oh, and Tom and Maddie are at a wedding or something; probably not important. Can Sonic and Tails find the Master Emerald before Knuckles and Robotnik release its power upon the world? Why is Knuckles so intent on finding this thing, and how does his past tie in with Sonic’s? Seriously, this seems like a pretty big leap from the last movie! Are we sure that Sonic is ready for something that doesn’t involve slo-mo bar fights and fart jokes?
The Northman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features
Directed by Robert Eggers
So not only did The Daniels make one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time, we got a movie from Robert Eggers just a few weeks after! Either someone out there likes me or I’m being set up for a huge downfall, which admittedly is thematically consistent with Eggers’ other work. Both The Witch and The Lighthouse were two of the best movies in their respective years and it looks like Hollywood is taking notice as they’ve given him a blank check to make his unique form of creeping dread and otherworldly terror as big and bombastic as any summer blockbuster! Do the bigger budget and expansive production give Eggers the room he needs to make the best movie of his career, or is he better suited for something on a much smaller scale? Let’s find out!!
Back in the time of The Vikings, there was a king named Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) who was unjustly slain by his own brother (Claes Bang) in front of the young prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) in a power grab for his kingdom and his queen (Nicole Kidman). The prince manages to escape and swears vengeance on his uncle which he nurtures into a finely distilled ball of pure rage and spends the next twenty years bulking up and kicking butt until he is ready to take back his kingdom. Now a grown man (Alexander Skarsgård), Amleth pillages the countryside with a group of like-minded and similarly buff Viking dudes until he gets word that his uncle has been deposed and is living with the queen and their two sons on some farm in Iceland. He heads over there on a slave ship to try and get close to him while meeting the fair maiden Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) who may or may not be a witch, and is similarly interesting in killing the man who will be enslaving them both. Amleth manages to stay unrecognized as he becomes one of his uncle’s slaves and plots his revenge which includes sewing chaos during the night and stabbing dudes with a magic sword he finds. Still, this proves to not be as simple a task as Amleth believed it to be for all those years, and now he’s faced with the true consequences of his actions which forces him to weigh the cost of his vengeance against the balance he hopes to restore with that blood. Will Amleth be able to avenge his father, save his mother, and be the hero that would make Odin proud? Will his uncle catch wise to this hulking blonde brute being the instrument of his torment, and even if he does realize his identity, is there anything he can do to stop his nephew from carrying out his quest? Is it just me or does a blood feud really do wonders for your physique? I mean jeez, they didn’t even have EMS back!
[THENORTHMANCD1 – I guess when you can’t get whey protein in a jar you just have to get it the old-fashioned way by drinking the blood of your enemies!]
Everything Everywhere All at Once and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
I heard a lot of good things about this movie going into it, but what really grabbed my attention was finding out that this was directed by The Daniels. Their previous film, Swiss Army Man, was a pretty fantastic little indie film (that I did a pretty poor job reviewing despite giving it a good score) and I’d always wondered what they had been up to since then. You probably don’t need me to tell you if this movie is good given how far-reaching the praise has been for it (and the fact that I’m reviewing it almost a month after its release), but maybe my little voice out there in the universe will ultimately make a difference for someone! Is this as great as everyone says it is, or will I be the bearer of bad news that’s about to rain on everyone’s parade? Let’s find out!!
Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is not very happy with her life. She runs a laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), her father (James Hong) has health issues and needs to be taken care of, and her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is bugging her about something when all she wants to do is keep everything from falling into chaos. Throwing a wrench into her plan is the IRS who is auditing her business, and the agent assigned to her case (Jamie Lee Curtis) is not exactly the most amenable to her stressful situation. Sometimes you just have to wonder where things went wrong and if there’s a better version of you out there. Fortunately for Evelyn though, she gets an answer to that question when her husband starts acting very weird and tells her to wear these wireless earpieces that end up sending her to alternate dimensions. It turns out that Evelyn may just be the key to solving some sort of inter-dimensional timey-wimey nonsense and that her husband is being controlled by a parallel version of him from the Alpha-verse that is able to hop dimensions and is searching for a way to stop a terrible threat that is about to shatter all of existence. Sort of a lot to drop on someone already struggling to make it through the day, but when the alternative is talking to someone at the IRS, it’s pretty easy to figure out which is the better option! Evelyn has to find the strength within her and put everything she holds dear on the line in order to save the future (or something like that), but can she juggle the problems of multiple versions of her life when she’s struggling just to deal with the one she’s got? What is this all-powerful threat that Evelyn needs to face, and is Alpha Waymond keeping some very important secrets from her? Can you apply deductions from businesses in an alternate reality, or do you need separate filings for each parallel universe?
Death on the Nile and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Studios
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Hey, remember when Murder on the Orient Express came out and then the world ended before the sequel come hit theaters? It feels like this thing was pushed back at least half a dozen times before it finally hit theaters, and sure enough, I ended up missing it when it did; catching it on one of the various streaming services it was added to in the last few weeks. I made time for Uncharted and Batman, but I couldn’t make time for this!? Blasphemy, I say! Was I wrong to miss out on this classy and colorful adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel when I had the chance to see it on the big screen, or did I manage to save myself from crushing disappointment and overpriced popcorn? Let’s find out!!
Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is the world’s greatest living detective and owner of one of the best mustaches the world has ever seen! Still, even with so much success behind him, he is not without his troubles, his worries, and his fatigue which prompts him to take a trip to Egypt. Little does he know however that, just like Jessica Fletcher, murder and mischief follow him wherever he goes and he winds up meeting his old friend Bouc (Tom Bateman) who drags him to a wedding party full of colorful characters and juicy intrigue. The wedding is for Linnet Ridgeway and Simon Doyle (Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer); the former a socialite heiress to a vast fortune and the latter a hunky dude she stole from her best friend Jackie (Emma Mackey). The rest of the wedding party is certainly putting on a show of happiness for the new couple, but each one has an ax to grind as is standard for this kind of story with Jackie herself making an appearance once in a while to really ratchet up the heat. Someone is going to die during this destination wedding, and with Poirot around, there is a good chance that justice will be served! Who at this wedding party will play the part of the victim in this tragedy, and what will be the motive behind that killing!? Will Poirot be able to suss out the murderer before they get desperate and cover their tracks with even more bloodshed!? Seriously, dude. How do you keep that mustache so perfect; ESPECIALLY in this humidity!?
Deep Water and all the images you see in this review are owned by Hulu
Directed by Adrian Lyne
Movies may be returning to theaters, but the Pandemic has irrevocably muddied the waters between theatrical movies and straight to streaming. Pixar’s splitting the difference with one of their movies going to streaming while other is a theatrical exclusive, and all the major streaming services are sacrificing box office bucks in the hopes of roping in a few more views; Netflix being the most blatant as far as I’m concerned what with Knives Out 2 going straight to their service. It’s certainly been good for me as I’m already paying for these things so I might as well check out what’s on them, and one movie caught my eye this week. It’s a movie I never heard of until a few days before it was to come out, and yet it’s starring the former Batman and Agent Paloma from the last James Bond movie! How did something with such high-profile actors fly under my radar like this? Was Hulu hoping we won’t notice it as they sandwich it between Seth Macfarlane cartoons and whatever the heck Letter Kenny is, or is this just further evidence that I am out of touch and just barely managed to catch a great movie before it sailed right over my head? Let’s find out!!
Vic Van Allen and Melinda Van Allen (Ben Affleck Ana de Armas) are an upper-class married couple who have an… interesting relationship. It’s unclear how much of this is formalized or agreed upon, but it’s clear that Melinda is having sex with other men and that Vic is aware of it. For the most part, he just stands there and plasters a smile on his face while she does her thing, but it’s clear that this is eating him up inside and he starts getting more and more aggressive in his “handling” of this situation. Melinda seemingly has no compunction about this and presumably doesn’t care much for Vic’s feelings, but then Vic is no peach either and his need for control only gets more desperate and more uncomfortable. Just how far will Vic go to hold tight on what he believes is rightfully his, and how will Melinda react to these cages he wishes to put up? Is there something underneath all this contempt that they have for each other, and is it somehow darker than the animosity with which they deal with their problems already? See, back in my day they would just go on Springer and get it all out in the open, but nope! Just gonna bottle it up until someone writes a really inappropriate rant on Facebook!
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!
The Batman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Matt Reeves
I wasn’t sure what to think about them doing yet another Batman movie when this first got announced. Say what you will about the Marvel movies, they haven’t beaten characters into the ground as thoroughly as Warner Bros have done to Batman and his crew. Multiple continuities and actors playing the same characters within years of each other, and all of them pale in comparison to The LEGO Batman Movie! Still, despite this looking like the grimdark fantasies of a nineties teen, it has an immense amount of talent that I genuinely respect behind it; particularly Robert Pattinson who has swiftly become one of my favorite actors. Is this a refreshing change of pace and a genuinely excellent interpretation of the character, or is this a whole lot of effort and prestige going to waste? Let’s find out!!
In the heart of Gotham, there is a man wearing a very strange costume attacking criminals and striking fear into the worst that the city has to offer. Unfortunately, this is not Batman doing it and it’s not the costumed bad guys who are getting their heads caved in; rather it’s some guy calling himself The Riddler who is murdering the corrupt politicians and their enablers. He’s also leaving cryptic clues for the city’s other vigilante, the one that attacks the easier to ignore bad guys, and so it’s up to Batman (Robert Pattinson) to find out who this brat is and bring him to justice! His investigation leads him to some shady figures in the underworld including Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell) and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) who are connected to this Riddler fellow in some way, and he even stumbles across a cat burglar (Zoë Kravitz) who may know more about this case and the people involved than she’s letting on. Can Batman solve the clues and find the man responsible for these killings before he gets to his grand finale? How has being the Batman affected the man beneath the cowl, and will this latest mystery push him too far into the darkness? Seriously, fanboys; what’s your beef with Robert Pattinson? Is he somehow not broody enough for you!?
2021 may not have been as sparse as 2020 as far as releases, but it was still a rough year to get out to the theater and so I didn’t as many movies as I had hoped; hence why I did a few pieces trying to catch up on a few things that I missed. If I didn’t get a chance to review it, I didn’t put it on this list so keep that in mind as we go through the best films that I saw last year! Let’s get started!!
I like to give the unofficial eleventh spot to something that may not have been a great film but clicked with me in some strange way and held my interest throughout the year. For 2021, it was two movies that managed to do something new with existing franchises that I had written off a long time ago; GI Joe being a series I’ve never been a fan of and Saw having run itself into the ground a decade ago. Both films are significantly flawed in some fundamental areas with Snake Eyes having some terribly shot action and Spiral losing a lot of tension whenever Chris Rock starts in on his shtick, but I’m genuinely impressed at how both brought their respective franchises back from the dead by getting to the heart of what makes them work in the first place. Saw as a police procedural feels more in tune with the strengths of the series than any of the Bigger is Better sequels, and Snake Eyes focusing on a handful of key players instead of throwing the entire GI Joe/Cobra war at us from the outset allows us to actually develop these characters and make us care about their struggles and motivations. In a year that gave us hollow and cynical nostalgia bait like Space Jam: A New Legacy and Ghostbusters; Afterlife, it was refreshing to see movies take a sincere and stripped-down approach to build us towards something new instead of rehashing the same old nonsense as blatantly and obnoxiously as possible.
Uncharted and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
The quest for the truly great video game movie has felt like a moot point for years now; especially since people are rediscovering some of those old nineties films and realizing that they were actually pretty good. Mortal Kombat is well regarded for its fun action and interesting aesthetic (certainly more so than its 2021 counterpart) and I still maintain that the Super Mario Bros movie is an unsung classic of the dystopian sci-fi genre. Heck, even with the more recent films like Detective Pikachu, a good chunk of the Resident Evil movies, and arguably Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s hard to say with a straight face that we’re still waiting for someone to “get it right” when there are plenty of examples we can point to that are more than watchable. Now it’s time for Sony’s big cinematic money maker for the PlayStation to try and prove that it can be a good movie in its own right instead of just mimicking big-budget adventure films. Will it be another feather in the game industry’s cap as far as film adaptations, or will this be as quickly forgotten as that Tomb Raider movie from a few years ago? Let’s find out!!
Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) is a lovable crook in the heart of New York as he steals his way through a meager life because how else are you going to afford rent there? He has aspirations of… I guess being Indiana Jones at one point, but it’s not until some shady guy named Sully (Mark Wahlberg) offers him a job that his career as an adventurer finally gets off the ground. With promises of an impossibly large treasure as well as clues to what happened to his missing brother Sam, Nathan jet sets around the world to solve the mystery of Magellan’s lost gold! With the help of an associate of Sully’s named Chloe (Sophia Ali), can this unlikely team manage to find the treasure before ruthless businessman Santiago (Antonio Banderas) and his crew of even more ruthless mercenaries led by Jo (Tati Gabrielle) can take it for themselves? Who is this Sully guy anyway, and is he being forthright with everything he knows about Sam? Does Nathan have any idea what he set himself up for? I mean there are at least four games I could have shown him to give him a clue before he agreed to this ridiculous adventure.