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!]
Spider-Man: No Way Home and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Jon Watts
It’s been a rather underwhelming year for the superhero genre which once towered over the world. The Pandemic has pushed the release schedule around several times which means we’re waiting longer for these movies, and to me, the MCU is having trouble finding their voice after Endgame put a pretty definitive end to the original story arc. Frankly, the best we’ve gotten from the MCU in the last two years have been the Disney+ shows that may not always hit their marks but definitely have a lot of interesting ideas that probably wouldn’t work as a movie; even with these things being overly long for the most part. Still, it’s hard not to get excited about another Spider-Man film; especially one as specifically targeted to my generation as this one is. Does it manage to pull us out of the MCU funk and deliver on all the ludicrous promises the trailers have made, or is this going to be as convoluted and pointless as the Clone Saga; or even worse, One More Day? Let’s find out!!
Following the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has been revealed to the world as their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and this newfound celebrity (and infamy) has thrown his life into chaos. Investigations from the government, a bunch of weirdos throwing bricks through his windows, and a very awkward school environment where half of them want to see him become their mascot and the other are hurling conspiracy-laden insults at him. See, this is why you need to be rich or a soldier to do the Superhero thing; either commit to it full time or pay people to go outside for you! It gets to be such a burden that Peter begs the MCU’s cool uncle Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to use his wizard magic to erase his identity from the mind of everyone in the universe. Let’s just say that it had mixed results as the world doesn’t forget his identity, but there are now a bunch of villains running around who seem to know him; including Doctor Otto Octavius who has four robot arms (Alfred Molina), Max Dillon who has electricity powers (Jamie Foxx), Dr. Curt Connors who’s a lizard man (Rhys Ifans) Flint Marko who spends most of the movie as a human-shaped sandcastle for whatever reason (Thomas Haden Church), and of course Norman Osborne who still suffers from pretty severe mood swings (Willem Dafoe). Now if you’ve kept up with the Spider-Man films for the last twenty years, those names should seem pretty familiar. Sadly the Spider-Man of this universe didn’t get to see those movies, so he has to discover who all these people are, why they became villains in the first place, and if this confluence of inter-dimensional fan service can actually turn into a good thing for all involved. Will Peter Parker, with the help of his friends, his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), and his sorta-bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau), be able to stop these guys from tearing apart this universe and perhaps even get past their overwhelming hatred of wall-crawling superheroes? Who else may have found their way into this universe, and what can they do to either help or hamper Peter’s attempts to fix everything? So is J Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons) also an inter-dimensional buzzkill, or is there no universe that can escape his ludicrous conspiracy theories and get-rich-quick schemes?
Justice League 2017 & Justice League 2021 as well as all the images you see are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Both films directed by Zack Snyder
I can’t say I was ever looking forward to this day as I was one of the people who actually LIKED the original cut of Justice League and then spent the last four years seeing people opine (and worse) for a movie that they already got; not to mention the awful news that broke about how the reshoots went for Ray Fisher. Still, Warner Bros is looking for ANY sort of cash cow to make their HBO Max service a success, so they threw a bunch of money at Zack Snyder and company to make an extended version of the movie they already made and feed into the LOST SNYDER CUT narrative that has been stuck with us for so long. Now that the movie is finally out, was it worth all the hype and can it possibly justify the ridiculous over the top actions its most ardent supporters took? Well obviously not, but instead of just doing a straight up review as the films are very similar in a lot of ways, I think it’d be much more interesting to take a look at what this new version gets right as well as where it falls short of the original cut. Let’s get started, and beware of Spoilers ahead!!
Something Good: The colors make more sense
The drastic change in pallets between the early trailers and the later ones was a definite sign that things were changing significantly and a lot of scenes in the movie ended up suffering for it. Batman in particular always looked like an overstuffed sausage in bat-pants stuffed with pudding (which isn’t COMPLETELY gone but is much less prominent now), and there was a garishness to certain scenes where they pushed the colors up just a little bit too high. The corrections here definitely fit more with what was being filmed and the pallet fits well with the new tone of the movie.
Something Bad: The colors are more boring
And yet I just couldn’t get behind it. Sure the colors didn’t always WORK, but for the most part they were bright and colorful which added a much needed cheeriness to a franchise that until then was stuck in its own morose grander. Thankfully later movies like Shazam, Aquaman, and arguably even Wonder Woman 1984 built a brighter look from the ground up and the aesthetic fits better with those movies, but going back to this kind of look after those films is just deflating; even if it’s more competently done. And I’m also going to throw this in here, I just don’t get why they insisted on using an IMAX aspect ratio for a moving going to a streaming service. It’s distracting the whole way through and I never felt like it added anything.
The Lighthouse and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Robert Eggers
The director’s last film The Witch was a PHENOMENAL film that is easily one of the best horror films in the last decade (certainly better than Hereditary), so I was excited to see what he was going to do next. Lo and behold, his next movie starts two of the best character actors working today, is presented in Black and White, and is about something relatively mundane but will no doubt lead to horror and intrigue! Jeez, you might as well have wrapped it up, put a nice bow on it, and put it on a drone to crash into my house! Does Robert Eggers’s second film exceed the high bar he set with his first outing, or is a talent as great as his still not immune to the dread Sophomore Slump? Let’s find out!!
Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattison) is the new assistant lighthouse keeper watching over a crappy little light house on a crappy little rock not too far from shore but far enough that you wouldn’t survive an attempt to swim towards it. His supervisor Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) is an old sea captain with the accent, peg leg, and pipe to back it up, and his task is to whip this young whipper snapper into ship shape if he’s to one day maintain a lighthouse of his very own. Seems simple enough, and they certainly have more than enough work to do maintaining this house and the light therein, but over time it starts to become clear that maybe Captain Wake isn’t all he claims to be and that maybe Winslow isn’t as cut out for this work as he initially thought. Oh well, it’s not like he’s gonna be there FOREVER, right? He’s only there for a month before being moved somewhere else… oh what’s that? There’s a big storm coming that’ll make it impossible for his ship to come anytime soon? Well then! That’s… unfortunate for everyone involved. So Ephraim is stuck there for a while and with each passing day it seems that little bit of his sanity has gone with it as things get weirder and weirder around here; not the least of which being Captain Wake who REALLY seems to like the light at the top of the tower. I mean… he REALLY likes that light! So much so that Ephraim hasn’t had a chance to maintain it despite that being part of his training because Wake wants to keep it all to himself… for some reason. Can Ephraim keep his head down, focus on his work, and stay out of trouble long enough for the lighthouse company to send him another boat? What is going on up there at the top of the tower, and is that just the tip of the iceberg as far as strange happenings on this unassuming island? After seeing Pattinson brood his way through this, is there anyone else who COULD be Batman!?
Aquaman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by James Wan
Well I guess this is one way to put 2018 to a close. It’s been over a year since the last DCCU film stumbled into theaters and failed to make back the ludicrous amount of money put into it, but since Warner Bros hasn’t given up just yet on turning their superheroes into box office gold (it worked for Wonder Woman at least!), we’re getting at least one more stab at making this initial run of movies work before moving onto what MIGHT be an entirely new continuity with Shazam next year along with another Wonder Woman movie. With nothing left in the tank and one more Hail Mary left to go, can Warner Bros and DC knock it out of the park as the year is coming to a close? Let’s find out!!
Following the events of Justice League, Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is just chilling with his dad (Temuera Morrison) and saving the occasional submarine from pirates. After a recent successful venture that left one particular pirate named David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) rather ticked off with our sub-nautical super hero, Arthur figured he’d just hang out at the bar for a bit before passing out somewhere. Sadly rest and booze is not in the cards at the moment as a fellow mer-person named Mera (Amber Heard) who we saw briefly in Justice League shows up to Warn Arthur that war is brewing and he’s the only one who can stop it. To explain this, we’ll need to do a bit of a FLASHBACK to the mid-eighties where his father Thomas and his mother first met. His mother JUST SO HAPPENED to be the runaway princess Atlanna of the Kingdom of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) and fell in love with Thomas which eventually led to Arthur being born. However, after an attack from Atlantian soliders, Atlanna decides to go back to protect Arthur and become the bride of some dude who gets her pregnant and then chucks her into some dark hole in the sea after their son is born. Said son Orm (Patrick Wilson) is the current king of Atlantis and is consolidating power with the other mer-people tribes including the one that Mera belongs to which is ruled by her father Nereus (Dolph Lundgren). Did you get all that? Good, well Orm’s plan is to take over Surface World with an army of mer-people, but since Arthur is part of Atlantian Royalty by birthright, he can challenge Orm to the throne and turn around his expansionist policies before Surface World has to start nuking the ocean. Okay, so if Arthur wants to save the world (which he’s not too keen on but begrudgingly accepts) he has to stage a coup of some sort and convince the Atlantians of his right to rule. How the heck is he gonna do that!? Well, that’s where this other guy Nuidis (Willem Dafoe) comes in as he’s Orm’s head Vizier but has secretly been training Arthur this whole time and has a plan for him. Okay, MORE backstory. To sum it up, the first Atlantian King had a super powerful trident and if Arthur can find it, then his claim to rule will be that much more legitimate. Find the trident, avoid Orm’s army, and steer clear of that David guy who has a serious grudge now and may even have access to Atlantian technology to boot. Sounds reasonable enough, especially with Mera helping him out the whole time! Can Arthur solve the mysteries of his people’s past and find the one thing that will make him the ruler he was born to be? Even if he does find it, can he truly be a leader to these people given that he’s of both Surface World AND Water World lineage? Will he say MY MAN at least once in the movie!? Just once! It’s all I ask!!
Murder on the Orient Express and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
I’m hardly what you’d call “well read” as most of my cultural education comes from television and movies followed by people TALKING about television and movies, so while I’m aware that there’s a book out there called Murder on the Orient Express written by someone whose work I should really get around to reading, I don’t actually know what the story is about nor who the killer is which I GUESS would make me the target audience for a slick Hollywood retelling of the story starring some of the most beloved character actors out there… and Johnny Depp. I’m certainly excited to see this as I do love me a good mystery, and seeing a movie is ALMOST as good as reading a book… right? Anyway, does Kenneth Branagh manage to successfully bring the Agatha Christie classic to the silver screen once again, or does the brilliance of her work get lost in the midst of his vision for the material? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the famed detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) solving yet another world class mystery in the heart of Jerusalem and is now ready to take a much deserved vacation to recharge his mystery solving batteries! As luck would have it, he runs into an old friend named Bouc (Tom Bateman) who gets him a ticket on the one and only Orient Express which Bouc is the director of. Sadly for Poirot’s plans of leisure, not only does the train get stuck in an avalanche but one of the passengers (Johnny Depp) comes down with a bad case of MURDER! With only some minor cajoling from Bouc, Poirot begins to investigate The Case of the Stabbed Dude by looking into the pasts of all the other passengers (Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin, and Miranda Raison) to see if there’s anything to connect one of them to the guy sleeping in a pool of his own blood. Will Poirot uncover the criminal mastermind who was unfortunately enough to be sharing a train ride with the world’s greatest detective? Just who was the man who got viciously murdered, and what could have motivated someone to commit such an act? Wait… isn’t it a bit TOO convenient that the train JUST SO HAPPENED to get stuck after a murder is committed!?
The Great Wall and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Picture and China Film Group
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Hey, Disney can’t be the ONLY company making all that money all over the world, right? Sure, they have Star Wars and Marvel on their side, but there’s certainly room for even more movies that go for a global audience. Hell, we’ve already got a few we can name off already like xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Warcraft, or even the last loathsome Transformers movie which inexplicable set the third act in China. Still, this particular movie is something different as it’s a US/China co-production that is legitimately one of those instead of a Hollywood film that had some of it done in China. This is an acclaimed Chinese director with stars from his own country AND the US with financial backing from Universal and a script from Hollywood writers. Hell, the fact that this movie ACTUALLY has Chinese subtitles yet is STILL getting a wide release in the US is noteworthy in and of itself! Did all that effort ultimately pay off, or is this a lousy way to kick off this new era in filmmaking? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with William and Pero (Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal) running their ass off across the Gobi desert in hopes of outrunning the bandits chasing them and also finding out the secret to BLACK POWDER (i.e. gunpowder) from the Chinese once they find someone to ask about it. Unfortunately for them, they wind up at The Great Wall where a secret army of warriors assigned to guard the wall (how can they be secret if they’re base of operations can be seen from space?) and they aren’t too friendly to tourists. Fortunately for them (or maybe not so fortunately), they arrived on the EXACT DATE that an army of monsters that comes around every sixty years (I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to be aliens) are set to attack and try to break the wall down so as to siege the country behind it. Because of this, General Shao and the chief strategist Wang (Zhang Hanyu and Andy Lau) who run this secret military called The Nameless Order don’t have the time to lock them in a dungeon and so they get a chance to prove their worth by slicing up a few monsters as well. This gives them a brief stay of execution and even the respect of some of the members there including Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian) and an ill prepared lower solider named Peng Yong (Lu Han). Of course, these newcomers ALSO get the attention of Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe) who’s… a prisoner I think? He came to China 25 years ago for BLACK POWDER as well, and I guess The Nameless Order just won’t let the dude leave; a fate that both William and Pero fear awaits them if they stick around too long. So it looks like they have a dilemma on their hands! Take what Black Powder the order has and leave them to fight on their own, or do what they can to help and hope they can finagle a way out once the dust has settled. Will they make the right choice in the end? What does the order have planned to fight this monstrous threat? How much were they hoping Matt Damon would bring in? A hundred million? Two hundred million?