Men in Black: International and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by F Gary Gray
As tacky as it may seem, I kind of want to see MORE studios blatantly try to pick at the MCU’s carcass by snatching up its major talent and putting them in new scenarios with similar dynamics. It’s kind of like the cinematic equivalent of an Elseworld’s tale or maybe even one of those bizarre crossover comics where the X-Men are on the Enterprise or Doctor Who has to fight the Cenobites or whatever. Picking up both Chris Hemsworth in full on Thor Swagger mode and Tessa Thompson at the height of her popularity is probably the best thing this film has going for it because it certainly isn’t the name brand recognition. The first Men in Black movie was good but is older than the target audience of this film, the sequel was utter dreck despite having my beloved Johnny Knoxville in a fun supporting role, and I never even bothered with the third movie that this thankfully doesn’t seem to be a direct sequel to. Still, the concept is at least unique enough that you could still salvage it given the right talent which looks to be the case with its cast as well as being directed by F Gary Gray. Can the MIB be brought back from the dead to be the next big cinematic franchise, or are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the late nineties and early 2000s over and over again
Molly (Tessa Thompson) has spent the last twenty years looking for the mysterious Men in Black organization which tried to capture an alien in her childhood home but failed to do so and also failed to neuralyse her like they did her parents. It was a pretty serendipitous event as well because Molly is a bit of a loner and cares more about unlocking the mysteries of the universe than having friends or forming genuine human relationships; a trait prided in members of the MIB! Because of this as well as her ability to eventually find them, the current head of the New York branch Agent O (Emma Thompson) gives her a shot with the new moniker Agent M and sends her to London for training where she runs into Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) who is a big shot hero from a few years ago but seems to be in a bit of a slump. He and the head of the London branch High T (Liam Neeson) once stopped an alien invasion with nothing but a couple of weapons and their wits, but when a protection operation H takes M along on goes completely awry, it could spell the end of not just their careers but the Earth itself. They must solve the mystery of who wanted to kill H’s alien buddy Vungus the Ugly (Kayvan Novak) and whether or not there’s some greater conspiracy happening with the MIB that this is just a small part of. Oh yeah, and there’s a comic relief alien (Kumail Nanjiani) that does cute things and spouts sarcasm. Can M and H learn to work together and solve the mystery before MIB or something more dangerous catches up to them? Will the organization that prides itself on being secretive collapse into ruin due to the duplicitous nature of one of its own? Is it just me, or is it becoming increasingly hard to believe that THIS many people and THIS much equipment are STILL a complete mystery to the undiscerning masses; all of whom have smart phones and social media accounts?
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?
Creed II and all the images you see in this review are owned by MGM Pictures
Directed by Steven Caple Jr
Back when I reviewed the first movie, I made a note that my conception of Rocky for the longest time was just the first three films, so the whole Ivan Drago thing always felt like an afterthought despite it being so iconic for many fans of the franchise. That said, when the first one came out and was about the son of Apollo, yeah there was NO WAY that a sequel could exist without bringing Dolph Lundgren back into the mix which thankfully they managed to do here with what is probably the last necessary sequel to Rocky we’ll ever need (unless we want to bring back Clubber Lang) and they can either continue the franchise without the baggage of the original films or let this series finally lay to rest. Do they manage to do justice to the story of Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed in this tale about their sons settling a decade’s long rivalry, or should the franchise have stopped while it was ahead? Admittedly if they HAD stopped while they were ahead we probably wouldn’t have gotten the first Creed, but in any case LET’S FIND OUT!!
The movie picks up a few years after the first film where Adonis Creed () has risen in the ranks of the boxing world with the help of his wise mentor Rocky Balboa () and the loving support of his girlfriend () (). After winning the WBC World Heavyweight Championship, he has FINALLY reached his dream of reclaiming the belt that his father lost those many years ago! Well that’s great! So now what? He decides to marry Bianca for one, but even with a loving wife and a sterling career, something feels… missing. Despite being the best of the best, he can’t seem to find the joy in it and pretty much immediately starts looking for a new challenge. Fortunately a very helpful fight promoter (Russell Hornsby) saw this coming a mile away and knew that once Adonis became champ that there was only one challenge left for him to face, and by challenge I mean one BIG spectacle of a fight to rake in millions of dollars! We are of course referring to, a rematch with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren); the man who killed his father. Or at the very least, Ivan Drago’s SON (Florian Munteanu) who as far as I know hasn’t killed anyone, but that might change if Adonis takes the bait and faces him again in the ring. If you’ve seen a Rocky movie, you know the basics of what happens next (i.e. Adonis loses the fight at the halfway point), but what does it mean for him to have his first taste of true defeat, and will he be able to face him once again, as well as all his fears and insecurities that have held him back from reaching his true potential? What will the strain of this lose put on his marriage to Bianca, and will she be able to live the life of a boxer’s wife; something that she’s never had to face since Adonis has never truly lost a fight on his own terms? Perhaps most importantly, DOES ADONIS COME OUT TO LIVING IN AMERICA!?
Sorry to Bother You and all the images you see in this review are owned by Annapurna Pictures
Directed by Boots Riley
This is a great time of year because once the summer blockbuster season starts to wind down we start to get some really great stuff from the indie scene right before the Prestige Films and the Oscar Bait start to take over the multiplex. Sure, August is normally considered a dumping ground for mediocre movies (I’m wary about Slenderman to say the least) but that’s more to do with the BIG releases rather than the harder to find stuff in the fancier theaters which is pretty much exactly what we have here today as I had to make a bit of a drive to catch this on the big screen. Now I’ve been keeping my eye on this film since the trailers started to pop up due to its interesting style and oddly relatable premise, at least from what they were selling us on, and most importantly I could really use something other than super hero flicks and The Rock to fill out my GOOD MOVIES list for this year! Does this bizarre little story manage to be just as good as I hoped it would be, or was I just too eager to find something new that there was no way it would live up to my expectations? Wouldn’t be the first time this year (*cough* Thoroughbreds *cough*)! Anyway, let’s find out!!
Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is a man just trying to survive day by day and constantly wondering if anything he does will ultimately matter in the grand scheme of things. After all, once he dies and his theoretical children die and then THEIR theoretical children die, will there be ANYONE left to remember him or the fact that he just barely managed to get a job working as a telemarketer? His girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) thinks he’s worrying too much about all that and she’s content to work on her art projects in between gigs as a sign flipper, but with the world slowly going to hell in a handbasket (a new company called WorryFree is basically reintroducing slavery by praying on the impoverished) it all just seems pointless unless he can REALLY start to make some money and find what it is that he’s good at. As it turns out though, he has a knack for this telemarketing thing once he finds his “white voice” (David Cross) and is on the fast track to being a POWER CALLER which is basically doing the same thing only for more money and selling stuff other than encyclopedias. However, his rise to the top has some roadblocks along the way as his fellow workers are staging a strike just as he’s about to make it as a POWER CALLER, and said promotion doesn’t come without its own problems and indignities that slowly start to tear at Cassius’s soul and creates a divide between him and Detroit. Throw in some colorful characters like Squeeze the leader of the telemarketer’s strike (Steven Yeun), Steve Lift the CEO of WorryFree (Armie Hammer) who’s about as big of a douche bag as you’d imagine, and the mysterious Mr. ******* (Omari Hardwick) who represents the future that Cassius has waiting for him if he sticks it out at his new job for just a little bit longer. Can Cassius find a way to use his talents for massive financial gain without losing his soul in the process? Just what is WorryFree up to, and how does it connect to this Telemarketing Company as well as Cassius himself? Is there like a hotline I can call that’ll explain this movie to me, because I feel like I STILL don’t have a clear grasp on what the heck was going on!
Annihilation and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Alex Garland
So apparently Paramount wanted to bury this thing for some reason? I mean… I guess it WORKED considered I never heard of this until the week before it came out. I go to movies all the time, and I never saw ONE trailer for this thing despite starring some PRETTY big names right now! Now this is hardly the first time that a studio had lost complete faith in the movie they had made, and it’s not always a sign that the movie is bad (*cough* Brazil *cough*), but it STILL is a bit worrying as studios are loath to just throw money away; especially on projects that seem to have had THIS much star power both in front of and behind the camera. Does this offbeat science fiction film manage to shine through despite the studio doing everything it could to keep it out of the public eye, or was Paramount trying to save us from something that we were better off just forgetting it even existed? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the story of Lena (Natalie Portman), told slightly out of order, where she went head first into a unique biome of alien origin that I like to call The Rainbow World and tried to reach its center to destroy it from within! Okay, now that I’m writing this down, it’s possible that a bit more context is needed. To rewind a bit here, about three years before the movie starts a meteorite smashes into a small coastal town and starts doing… something. It basically creates its own isolated environment with a clear delineation between EARTH WORLD and ALIEN WORLD in the form of a shimmer; almost like an opaque curtain in the shape of a dome. The US government seems to have gotten there right away and have been sending people into the strange place to find out what is going on, but no one has ever returned… until now! Lena’s husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) is a military Black Ops guy (I think) and was sent on a MYSTERIOUS mission about a year ago and suddenly returns home right as the movie starts; albeit looking rather disheveled and coughing up a worrisome amount of blood. The government weren’t too far behind him though and put him in a quarantine to study what’s happened to his physiology after being exposed to the alien biome, but they’re probably gonna have to work fast; lest this become an autopsy because his condition is getting worse. Lena is brought into the loop at this point and is told about THE SHIMMER (I still think it looks more like a Rainbow World); promting her to suit up, grab a gun, and join the next expedition which is in less than a week. Now if that sounds a bit silly, don’t worry! She was in the military as well, so she knows how to handle herself and use a gun. In fact, compared to the rest of the crew which includes a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez), a geologist (Tuva Novotny), a physicist (Tessa Thompson), and a psychologist (Jennifer Jason Leigh), she’s practically a god send as I doubt the rest of them would last a full day in there without her. So the day is set, the inexplicable rag tag crew gathers their courage, and they walk into THE SHIMMER with one goal in mind; get to the center and destroy whatever it is that’s causing this. Will Lena survive the harsh environment that nearly took her husband’s life, and will the secret to his illness lie within? What is motivating the rest of these women to go into this place that even trained soldiers couldn’t manage to overcome? Was this really the best we could muster after three years of failed attempts? They couldn’t even be given gas masks or motor bikes?
Thor: Ragnarok and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Taika Waititi
After the rather disappointing Thor: The Dark World (HOW DO YOU WASTE THE BEST DOCTOR WHO IN SUCH A BLAND VILLAIN ROLE!?) I wasn’t really looking forward to what they’d do with this character in his solo films and was more interested to see if he’d show up in a bunch of the other movies instead. Once those initial trailers hit with the heavy emphasis on fantastical Jack Kirby inspired designs and the rocking Led Zeppelin soundtrack, there seemed to be hope in this franchise digging itself out of the pit the sequel left it in. At the very least, it LOOKED a lot pretty with much more vibrant colors, and it even manages to drag Jeff Goldblum into the MCU which in and of itself would make this movie worthy of existing even if everything else ends up being awful. Does Thor’s third chance at the plate end up being one of the best films in the entire MCU, or did they just throw a lot of flash and money at a franchise that is just unable to find its place after telling the origin story? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) trying to find out what the heck Ragnarok is which was hinted at ALL the way back in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Remember when he left the team to take a bath and saw some visions? Yeah, apparently it was all foreshadowing of the destruction of Asgard in a calamity known as Ragnarok, so Thor is basically trying to find a way to stop it… whatever it may be. In the meantime though, he manages to find out that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has taken the place of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who is actually alright as Loki basically stuck his ass in a retirement home on Earth, but when Thor goes down there to bring him back to the throne it turns out that he’s all out of time and disappears in a cloud of energy or something. If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that one of the things he was doing when he was alive was keeping a hereto unknown daughter of his named Hela (Cate Blanchett) in some sort of magic prison which breaks as soon as he’s dead and so she’s come back for revenge against her family and all of Asgard. Both Loki and Thor are dealt with rather quickly with the latter losing his famed hammer Mjolnir and landing on some mystery planet where he is captured by a mysterious woman (Tessa Thompson) and dragged to the planet’s ruler known as THE GRANDMASTER (Jeff Goldblum). The once mighty God of Thunder and son of Odin is now put in chains and is forced to fight in gladiatorial matches in order to somehow earn his freedom and eventually find his way back home before Hela puts it inextricably under her vengeful thumb. Can Thor find a way to escape the barbaric society run by the most fabulous of dictators? What familiar faces will he find on this planet that can hopefully help him on his journey home? How the heck is Thor gonna get around now that he doesn’t have his magic propeller hammer!?
Creed and all the images you see in this review are owned by MGM Pictures
Directed by Ryan Coogler
I have this DVD boxset with the first three Rocky films in it that I think my dad got one Christmas. He didn’t watch them all that often so I ended up holding onto the boxset and I would watch those three ALL the damn time. A lot of people like the fourth film, but for me, Rocky has always been the first three movies which creates a perfect arc as Rocky starts out as a bum, eventually beats the champ, and they become friends afterwards. Hell, it even ends right where Rocky begins (inside a crappy little gym) only now with Apollo Creed there as a reminder of how much has changed in such a short amount of time. I didn’t catch Rocky Balboa until its home release, but it felt a perfect swansong for the series and Stallone proved once again that he really is a talented guy and deserved winning that Oscar. Now we’re back with yet another film in that universe, but the dynamics have changed. Not only is not really a Rocky film anymore, it’s not even a Stallone film considering that the writing and directing was handled by Ryan Coogler who himself is to proving to be an immense talent very early in his career. Will this be an inspired continuation of series that still manages to be its own film, or will this be a disappointing cash grab on the level of Rocky 5 considering they pretty much have the same premise? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about Adonis “Donnie” Johnson who is the son of Apollo Creed; the child of one of his mistress and born several months after Apollo’s death which should STILL put him at about 29, but whatever. Continuity in the Rocky series is pretty wonky as it is. Anyway, the kid is eventually found in a youth detention center by Apollo Creed’s widow (Mary Anne Creed played by Phylicia Rashad who FINALLY managed to be a movie that’s NOT directed by Tyler Perry) and she adopts the boy. We cut to when he’s an adult and despite having money and having a good life, he still can’t seem to resist the urge to fight, so between shifts at his day job he fights in low level boxing matches under the name Donnie Johnson. It’s not enough for him though, so he decides to quit his job, move to Philly, and get his father’s best friend to train him to be a professional boxer. Will Rocky be willing to step back into that life after leaving it behind him? Will Donnie finally find what is he’s looking for if he can convince Rocky to train him and put him in fights? How many times will YOU cry watching this?