Sunday, October 24, 2021

Dune 2021

Adapting one of the most influential and revered science-fiction novels of all time is no easy task, especially with how long and detailed it is, but Denis Villeneuve has proven to be the perfect person to handle such a challenge. Focusing on the first half of the original 1965 book by Frank Herbert, Dune 2021 can be difficult to get through due to its slow pace and highly detailed world building, but the payoff is worth it. Much like the novel and previous adaptations, the film is set in the far future wherein the entire universe is ruled by an empire and certain planets are looked after by a family. One of these families, House Atreides, is assigned to look over Arrakis, a desert planet from which the only source of fuel comes from and often called Dune. In reality, however, the emperor plans to kill the family out of political fear. At the same time, the heir to House Atreides, Paul, begins to develop abilities that he inherited from his mother, who is a part of a sisterhood with supernatural powers known as the Bene Gesserit. Some time after they establish themselves in Arrakis, the family and its followers are attacked by the House that previously stayed in the planet, the Harkonnens. Although Paul's father, Duke Leto, dies attempting to kill the attackers, he and his mother escape into the desert wherein they have to avoid attacks from the giant sandworms and find help from the Fremen, the planet's native population. One of the biggest praises that one can give to this movie even if one didn't like a lot of it is the bold ambition that Villeneuve and everyone involved in this production took, knowing how loved the novel is. Yes it has a rather slow pace and nearly three hours of very methodical scenes, while feeling at times like mostly setting up for the second half of the book, but a lot of it works due to how everyone involves takes it serious. A lot of the dialogue and exposition is written well and the performances from the actors never feels half assed. Having such acclaimed actors like Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgard, and Javier Bardem giving it their all, not a single one does a terrible or even mediocre job. Being less of a typical sci-fi action film and more of a political thriller, you often forget about the many typical tropes of the genre thanks to being engrossed by what's happening. Of course that doesn't mean that the effects, as well as the music and cinematography, aren't as strong or amazing for this kind of movie. Every aspect of this adaptation works even if you often feel bored, showing that not all big blockbusters need to be quick and done. Dune 2021 is a sight to behold all of the time but that doesn't mean it's easy to get through all of the time, but there's nothing wrong with that. Over all: 100%
2021 top list so far:
1. In the Heights
2. No Time to Die
3. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
4. The Green Knight
5. Candyman 2021
6. The Suicide Squad
7. Dune 2021
8. Free Guy
9. Nobody
10. Black Widow
11. A Quiet Place Part II
12. Respect
13. Raya and the Last Dragon
14. Malignant
15. Halloween Kills
16. Jungle Cruise
17. Cruella
18. Wrath of Man
19. F9
20. Venom: Let There Be Carnage
21. Snake Eyes
22. Old
23. Space Jam: A New Legacy

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Halloween Kills

Following on from the 2018 film, Halloween Kills sees Laurie Strode being taken to a hospital to deal with her injuries as Michael Myers escapes from the fire that he was trapped in. As Laurie heals, Michael once again goes on a killing spree throughout Haddonfield as he heads back to his childhood home. Once some of the survivors of Michael's original spree in 1978 learn about his escape and the new killings, they and the rest of Haddonfield form a mob to go after him once and for all. While I do agree that this sequel doesn't have the strengths of its predecessor, and knowing that this is the second part of a trilogy and thus feeling more about setup for the third part, it's still an exceptionally made movie that's far better than some of the other entries in the franchise. The writing between Scott Teems, Danny McBride, and director David Gordon-Green does a good job at making the anger the citizens have towards Michael feel natural, similar to the fourth film but with a bigger budget and more emphasis. It does, however, get rather repetitive with the constant times we're reminded of how evil Michael is or that they have to kill him. There's not that much that this movie adds to the series, just being a straightforward Myers kills anyone in his way story. You do get a few additions that at least do work well, such as showing how Michael was captured 40 years earlier, Deputy Hawkins's connection with him, some backstory to when Michael was a kid before killing his sister, the mob mentality getting out of hand, and Laurie understanding that he was never targeting her and is just another victim. What it lacks in writing, is made up thanks to Gordon-Green's phenomenal direction that leads to some very scary and spine-chilling moments. The best aspect to the direction is Michael's kills due to the originality of how he does it, the twisted qualities of each one, and perfectly fits the belief of him being the very presence of evil. That and the combination between Michael Simmonds's cinematography and much of the original theme with some new elements to the music by John and Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies also help in keeping you on the edge of your seat with your heart constantly on edge. With some returning actors like Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer and newer additions such as Anthony Michael Hall, every single actor absolutely shines. Though some characters don't really do all that much and are either wasted or just remind you of the setup for the third entry. Halloween Kills is still a fun, heart pounding installment but tends to do the same mistakes as any middle entry of a trilogy with tons of repetition despite its strong cast and creative kills. Over all: 96%
2021 top list so far:
1. In the Heights
2. No Time to Die
3. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
4. The Green Knight
5. Candyman 2021
6. The Suicide Squad
7. Free Guy
8. Nobody
9. Black Widow
10. A Quiet Place Part II
11. Respect
12. Raya and the Last Dragon
13. Malignant
14. Halloween Kills
15. Jungle Cruise
16. Cruella
17. Wrath of Man
18. F9
19. Venom: Let There Be Carnage
20. Snake Eyes
21. Old
22. Space Jam: A New Legacy

No Time to Die

Having played James Bond since 2006, Daniel Craig stars in his fifth and final outing as OO7 in No Time to Die. After an attack from Spectre leads a retired Bond to part with Madeleine Swann, he decides to go off the grid. Five years later, Bond is recruited by Felix Leiter for the CIA and then brought back into MI6 to look for a scientist who has created a DNA based bioweapon. Initially taken by Spectre, the scientist is recruited by a new terrorist group led by the mysterious Safin. With this bioweapon, Safin is able to kill the rest of Spectre and, with Madeleine's unwitting help, Blofeld. Upon tracking Madeleine to her childhood home, Bond learns that she has a daughter, though denying it's his child. Soon after they're chased and attacked by Safin's men, who manage to kidnap Madeleine and her daughter. Tracking Safin to a secluded island where he will make more of the bioweapon, Bond and Nomi, the new OO7, head to the island to rescue the hostages and open the silos so a missile strike destroys the bioweapons. Once there, Bond and Nomi face off against Safin's forces or risk a global catastrophe that would affect millions. With 25 films in the series, this entry stands out as one of the most daring by tackling things that's never been done before since 1962. Craig's portrayal of Bond has always been more grounded, darker, and at times terrifying compared to his predecessors. In this, we still get that, but also hints of more humanity and normalcy that can sometimes feel strange due to the past movies, but Craig's performance makes it believable. With Rami Malek portraying Safin, we get a more subdued Bond villain who always finds a way to get one step ahead. He's not over the top, doesn't make outlandish plans, or relies on extravagant traps, he's simply cunning, intelligent, and scarily realistic. Though one can't deny that he has similarities to Blofeld in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me, and Drax in Moonraker that still give it that special flavor. The bold choice of both killing Bond and having a child is a great way of ending Craig's already distinct era. It helps that the writing done not just by regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, but also Phoebe Walter-Bridge and director Cary Joji Fukunaga is exceptional and manages to make it still feel true to the franchise and natural. As for Fukunaga's direction, it has a similar style to Sam Mendes but with more dynamic camera movements and superb set pieces. The stunts and fight sequences are not only well choreographed but have certain aspects of originality due to how they're presented, whether the opening chase scene with the Aston Martin, a shootout in Cuba, or the final fight between Bond and Safin. While Roger Deakins's work in Skyfall gave us the most astounding cinematography out of all the films, Linus Sandgren gives us a close second. The editing between Elliot Graham and Tom Cross helps keep the nearly three hour film, the longest Bond entry as well, feel brisk and have great pacing. Of course, one can't talk about a James Bond movie without bringing up the music and the theme song for the title sequence. Hans Zimmer does a superb job with the score, giving us the regular themes while adding bits and pieces of On Her Majesty's Secret Service's soundtrack that makes you weary of what could happen between Bond and Swann. This entry's theme song, same title as the movie, is performed by Billie Eilish who cowrote it with her brother, Finneas, and Miles Ale. At 18, Billie is the youngest artist to record a Bond theme and regardless of her age, it is an amazing song that fits both her style and the franchise's previous hits. It's perfectly moody and somber, but still keeps you magically invested due to foreshadowing what will occur in the rest of the film. Of all the Craig era songs, this is the second best right behind Adele's title song for Skyfall and one of the most iconic alongside Goldfinger's, Live and Let Die's, and For Your Eyes Only's. With No Time to Die being a perfect end to Craig's time as Bond, there's no doubt that it will be difficult to try to not only find a perfect successor to the role but have a movie that will be as regarded right away. Over all: 100%
2021 top list so far:
1. In the Heights
2. No Time to Die
3. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
4. The Green Knight
5. Candyman 2021
6. The Suicide Squad
7. Free Guy
8. Nobody
9. Black Widow
10. A Quiet Place Part II
11. Respect
12. Raya and the Last Dragon
13. Malignant
14. Jungle Cruise
15. Cruella
16. Wrath of Man
17. F9
18. Venom: Let There Be Carnage
19. Snake Eyes
20. Old
21. Space Jam: A New Legacy

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

With Andy Serkis taking over as director from Ruben Fleischer, who stays on as an executive producer, and Tom Hardy coming up with some of the story, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a wild and crazy sequel to the already over the top and energetic 2018 film. Set a little over a year after the first film, Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote have become begrudging roommates as Eddie tries to get his life back together. Opportunity knocks when a chance to interview convicted serial killer Cletus Kasady, played by Woody Harrelson, could help boost his career. With Venom's help, however, Eddie figures out where Cletus buried many of his kills, thus assuring that the serial killer will get the death penalty. Upon meeting Cletus one last time, a confrontation caused by Venom leads to Kasady biting Brock and the blood mixed with some of the symbiote's essence to eventually turn him into Carnage. Escaping from death row and going on a mass murder spree, Cletus and his own symbiote rescue an old flame with sonic scream powers and sets out to get revenge on those who have wronged them, including Brock and Venom. Despite having separated due to their constant arguments over how to perform heroic acts and whether Venom could eat brains, he and Eddie have to resolve their issues to defeat this new menace. What this film does best is continuing the crazy and silly tone that the first one did, although much of it is either toned down or kinda feels forced. The effects are still great, especially whenever Eddie turns into Venom but bigger props go to Cletus's transformations into Carnage as they have a more chaotic, almost body horror, aspect to it. In terms of the story, it's okay, short as it needs to be, but kinda all over the place when it tries to replicate the absurdity from the previous entry. While Tom Hardy, who also voices Venom, and other actors like Michelle Williams, Reid Scott, and Peggy Lu do return and give good performances, it's Harrelson as Carnage and Naomie Harris as Shriek that steal the movie. Serkis's direction is good as he films many of the drama and action with the same care, while the editing doesn't over do it with too many cuts in the action scenes. While it's understandable with the current pandemic going on that this is rated PG-13, knowing what Carnage can do and has done in the comics, an R rating would have been more appropriate. While Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a bit plain compared to other superhero films, the performances, effects, fight scenes, and a surprising twist in its mid credit scene connecting it to the MCU at least give it something to look forward to. Over all: 75%
2021 top list so far:
1. In the Heights
2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
3. The Green Knight
4. Candyman 2021
5. The Suicide Squad
6. Free Guy
7. Nobody
8. Black Widow
9. A Quiet Place Part II
10. Respect
11. Raya and the Last Dragon
12. Malignant
13. Jungle Cruise
14. Cruella
15. Wrath of Man
16. F9
17. Venom: Let There Be Carnage
18. Snake Eyes
19. Old
20. Space Jam: A New Legacy

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Superman: Secret Identity #1 (of 4)

Superman: Secret Identity #1 (of 4) is the debut of an Elseworld DC story from 2004 that looks at a version of Superman in a world more like our own. Clark Kent, a teen from Picketsville, Kansas who was named after the comic book superhero, lives every day being given Superman themed gifts from his family and often being teased by his classmates because of it. Wanting to be a writer, Clark often stays out in the woods to write out his thoughts on an old typewriter and relax from his namesake. One day, however, while sleeping out during one of his trips Clark wakes up to discover he has Superman's powers, being able to fly and the other abilities. While initially not wanting to get into heroics, that all changes when Clark saves several people during some incidents. These heroics get the attention of both the government and the media, despite Clark wanting to stay out of the public eye. Wanting someone to at least help get the word out that he means no harm and just wants to understand his powers, Clark contacts reporter Wendy Case in the shadows who publishes many of their conversations until he sees that she was recording him. Wanting to go public himself at the town's Halloween carnival, an explosion caused by Wendy that led to several people killed to expose him convinces Clark to keep his identity hidden but still save people whenever he can. Despite not focusing on the main version of Superman, this issue, and no doubt the rest of this miniseries, perfectly encapsulates what makes the character so beloved since 1938. It gives us a Clark Kent who, despite annoyed by who he was named after, does whatever he can to help as many people as he can thanks to the powers and abilities he has. Never using them for his own personal gain, get revenge against bullies, and genuinely feeling guilty when he learns about the people who died in the festival explosion. What makes the story so engaging is Kurt Busiek's writing and how it does feel like Clark's thoughts through the typewriter, also being helped by letterer Todd Klein's writing formats and coloring. Stuart Immonen, who does all of the main aspects of the artwork, does a phenomenal job with the comic's unique painting and painted over photography like style. There are many things that Superman: Secret Identity #1 (of 4) does right, but the most important is that it will make you want to read the next three issues more than any other comic book. Over all: 100%
Top list so far for 3rd set of comics:
1. Superman: Secret Identity #1 (of 4)
2. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers FCBD 2018 Shattered Grid Special
3. Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1
4. Iron Man (2020-) #1
5. Free Comic Book Day 2018: Riverdale
6. Free Comic Book Day 2018: 2000 A.D. Regened
7. DC Universe: Legacies #1
8. Free Comic Book Day 2017 I Hate Image
9. Shang-Chi (2020-2021) #1 (of 5): Brothers & Sisters Part One
10. Champions (2020-) #1
11. Infinite Frontier (2021) #0
12. Green Lantern Vol. 2 #76
13. DC Retroactive: Green Lantern - The 70s #1
14. Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (2020-) #1
15. Showcase (1956-1978) #17
16. Werewolf By Night (2020-) #1 (of 4)
17. Free Comic Book Day: Bongo Comics Free For All 2018
18. Free Comic Book Day 2017: Riverdale
19. Marvel Comics (1939) #1

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Malignant

Horror master James Wan's latest film, Malignant, is certainly a mix of strange, terrifying, and at times over the top that you wouldn't have expected from the trailers alone. Annabelle Wallis plays Madison Lake, a pregnant Seattle nurse with an abusive husband who after a confrontation with him he is soon murdered by a mysterious figure that attacks her and causes a miscarriage. Soon after that same figure kidnaps a woman and goes after and kills doctors, to which Madison has visions of, that links it and Madison from before she was adopted in 1993. With the help of her adopted sister and the police detectives in charge of the investigation, Madison learns about her long forgotten past and the surprising reveal of what the figure, calling himself Gabriel, actually is. Don't want to reveal way too much and not to spoil a huge reveal, but just to get one aspect out of the way, Gabriel is a living tumor that was attached to Madison's, or Emily May beforehand, back that the doctors, which Gabriel is killing, attempted to surgically remove. There are aspects to this movie that I definitely didn't expect and found to be original, but many of the same ideas are also executed in a very outlandish and over the top way. However, you can't deny how atmospheric and tense it is thanks to the cinematography, scoring, and Wan's direction. While what we later learn about Gabriel is interesting and explains some aspects, like his unique movements by contortionist Marina Mazepa or the visions Madison has, the fact that he has super strength and is able to control electricity is never explained and feels out of nowhere so as to make us think it's something else. So however you feel about Gabriel's reveal or abilities, there's no denying that Ray Chase's voice performance adds to his creepiness. Another facet to this movie that elevates it are the performances from the rest of the cast, including McKenna Grace as the younger Madison, Maddie Hasson as her adopted sister, and Susanna Thompson as Madison's adopted mother. So while Malignant has a lot of things that make it rather silly, there are far more stuff in it that still make it an engaging, fun, and tantalizing horror movie. Over all: 96%
2021 top list so far:
1. In the Heights
2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
3. The Green Knight
4. Candyman 2021
5. The Suicide Squad
6. Free Guy
7. Nobody
8. Black Widow
9. A Quiet Place Part II
10. Respect
11. Raya and the Last Dragon
12. Malignant
13. Jungle Cruise
14. Cruella
15. Wrath of Man
16. F9
17. Snake Eyes
18. Old
19. Space Jam: A New Legacy

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues on to to its fourth phase with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. With a primary focus on Asian culture, the film sees Xu Shang-Chi, a martial artist, hiding out in San Francisco so as to escape from his father, the head of the crime organization the Ten Rings. When his father, Xu Wenwu and the inspiration for Iron Man 3's Mandarin, manages to find Shang-Chi and his sister after so many years, he tries to convince them that their long departed mother is being kept hostage in her old village in another dimension. With the threat of Wenwu's criminal army as well as his use of the powerful ten rings that grant him immortality and power, the siblings have to protect the village with help from the imprisoned Trevor Slattery, the fake Mandarin, and the people of the village with their mystical weapons and creatures so as to keep a powerful evil from escaping. While WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did focus on a post Endgame-snapped world, this is the first film in the MCU that does take place mainly after that. But the movie never makes it too clear how long it's been and doesn't use much of that throughout the whole run. Despite this, it's still a well written and directed entry that gives a compelling villain with noble, though misguided, goals. Destin Daniel Cretton's direction does an amazing job especially in how it handles flashbacks to Shang-Chi and his sister's Xialing's childhood from idyllic to after their mother is killed and their father becomes colder and trains his son to kill while neglecting his daughter. One huge issue with the writing is that it never explains what keeps Wenwu from taking over the world despite the army he amasses and the power of the rings that has kept him alive for thousands of years. But this being the MCU, one can infer that there may have been threats that challenged him as we do get cameos from Doctor Strange's Wong. The cast that includes Simu Liu playing the title character, Tony Leung as his father, Meng'er Zhang portraying Xialing, Awkwafina as Shang-Chi's best friend, and supporting characters played by Ben Kingsley, Michelle Yeoh, and Fala Chen who all provided strong, funny, and powerful performances. Similar to Black Panther and how it handled African culture, the exploration and representation towards Asian culture is not only detailed but also handled in a very respectful manner especially in the way it depicts various Chinese mythological creatures and doesn't over explains each one. Having a hero whose comic book roots lie in the kung fu craze of the early 1970s, this film's biggest strength is the use of martial arts in its action sequences. Thanks to stunt coordinator Brad Allen, who recently passed away, we not only get great fight scenes but also many that almost feel like a dance. Of course much of that is also thanks to William Pope's lush cinematography, the editing not being overdone, Joel P. West's Asian inspired scoring, and well made effects that don't interfere with the fight scenes. Between the powerful performances, strong action scenes, and compelling story with great use of Asian culture it's no wonder Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has become a box office record breaker even through the pandemic. Over all: 100%
2021 top list so far:
1. In the Heights
2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
3. The Green Knight
4. Candyman 2021
5. The Suicide Squad
6. Free Guy
7. Nobody
8. Black Widow
9. A Quiet Place Part II
10. Respect
11. Raya and the Last Dragon
12. Jungle Cruise
13. Cruella
14. Wrath of Man
15. F9
16. Snake Eyes
17. Old
18. Space Jam: A New Legacy