REVIEW: Stowaway (2021)

Daniel Dae Kim in Joe Penna’s STOWAWAY — Photo: Netflix.

Directed by Joe Penna (Arctic) – Screenplay by Joe Penna & Ryan Morrison.

Back in 2019, Joe Penna released his feature-length directorial debut, the Mads Mikkelsen-vehicle Arctic, which was a gripping story of survival in the face of a hopeless and cold wilderness. I was extremely impressed by Penna’s debut film, as it felt real, as it had a lot of heart, and since it rarely felt Hollywood-ized. It also helped that Mads Mikkelsen delivered one of his best performances in Penna’s underseen debut.

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REVIEW: Jungle Cruise (2021)

Emily Blunt as Lily Houghton, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as Frank, and Jack Whitehalll as MacGregor Houghton in Disney’s JUNGLE Cruise — Available now in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access — Photo: Disney / Disney+.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra — Screenplay by Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra, and John Requa.

There are many films that have been turned into theme park attractions as a direct result of their popularity. However, the reverse doesn’t happen successfully as frequently. We rarely see great films that are instead based on popular attractions. Disney did find that kind of success, when Gore Verbinski turned the Pirates of the Caribbean-attraction into a beloved film franchise. It wasn’t Disney first or last attempt at making a successful film out of one of their many theme park attractions, but they have all mostly failed to garner the same success that Verbinski’s beloved films did.

Some of the not-so-successful attempts include the Eddie Murphy-led The Haunted Mansion and Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland. Jaume Collet-Serra’s Jungle Cruise is based on the Disney attraction of the same name, and, even though it is not a true home run for Disney, I think it’s definitely the best of its kind since Verbinski’s swashbuckling action-adventure trilogy set sail.

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Additional Bite-Sized Reviews, Summer ’21: ‘Mare of Easttown,’ ‘Cruella,’ and More

Emma Stone as ‘Cruella’ in Disney’s live-action ‘CRUELLA’ — Photo: Disney / Disney+.

In this edition of my monthly movie and television catch-up article series titled ‘Additional Bite-Sized Reviews,’ I reveal my mixed thoughts on the Emma Stone-vehicle Cruella, and then I recommend three television shows, one of which I’ve been meaning to review for several months. This edition of Additional Bite-Sized Reviews is jam-packed!

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REVIEW: Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

Karen Gillan as Sam in ‘Gunpowder Milkshake.’ Photo: Reiner Bajo / Netflix / StudioCanal.

Directed by Navot Papushado — Screenplay by Navot Papushado & Ehud Lavski.

While the Chad Stahelski and David Leitch’s John Wick from 2014 was a fantastic and emotionally involving revenge action film, I didn’t initially like the idea of making it a franchise. Eventually, though, I warmed to the idea and grew to really appreciate the Keanu Reeves-led stylized action franchise, and I became invested in the films’ epic underworld which was surprisingly complex. With the success of Stahelski and Leitch’s action franchise, similar films were produced to varying results. Unfortunately, in spite of its impressive cast, Navot Papushado’s Gunpowder Mikshake feels more like an imitation of Stahelski and Leitch’s impressive world-building than a successful original film.

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REVIEW: Black Widow (2021)

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, David Harbour as Alexei, and Florence Pugh as Yelena in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW — Photo by Jay Maidment / Marvel Studios.

Directed by Cate Shortland — Screenplay by Eric Pearson — Story by Jac Schaeffer & Ned Benson.

After numerous delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cate Shortland’s Black Widow is finally here. Out now in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the first film in its so-called Phase Four — which also already includes Disney+ series WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki — but it is also the first theatrically released Marvel Studios product in two years (since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home).

My fellow Marvelites and so-called True Believers can now rejoice as the wait is finally over. However, while I’d say the film is quite good and, at least to some extent, worth the wait, I also have to say that it is clear as day that this film is ‘out of time’ in more ways than one, which makes the film feel quite strange even though it is ‘just’ a long-awaited solo film with a beloved character.

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REVIEW: The Tomorrow War (2021)

Still image — Chris Pratt in ‘THE TOMORROW WAR’ — Available now on Amazon Prime Video.

Directed by Chris McKay (The LEGO Batman Movie) — Screenplay Zach Dean.

Several years ago, there was a time when me and my father would watch and rewatch science-fiction films so much so that we knew the dialogue by heart. I can’t possibly tell you the amount of times that I’ve seen, for example, Stargate, which I have a lot of love for. When I was a kid, my father would always steer me towards horror or science-fiction films, and therefore it was a great joy for me to be able to watch this film with my father. Although I had some problems with the film, I genuinely had a lot of fun with it, and I know that if I were still a kid today, then he and I would watch The Tomorrow War over and over again.

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REVIEW: Luca (2021)

“Luca” Still Image – Photo: Disney / Pixar.

Directed by Enrico Casarosa — Screenplay by Jesse Andrews & Mike Jones.

Pixar’s Luca, which is available to watch right now with a Disney+ subscription, is a, pardon the pun, fish-out-of-water coming-of-age story about Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), a teenage sea monster, who is curious about what exactly happens above the surface of the water. His parents — voiced by Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan — tell him to stay away from the surface out of a fear that the sea monster-fearing humans might catch him. But Luca, like another Disney-protagonist once sang, wants to be where the people are.

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REVIEW: The Mauritanian (2021)

Tahar Rahim as Mohamedou Ould Slahi in Kevin Macdonald’s THE MAURITANIAN – Photo: STX Films / Amazon Prime Video.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald – Screenplay by M.B. Traven, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani.

Kevin Macdonald’s The Mauritanian is a legal drama based on Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s memoir Guantanamo Diary. The film tells the true story of Mohamedou’s experience as a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, in which he was subject to so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ which essentially amounts to torture. The film juxtaposes the perspectives of two lawyers — Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and Nancy Hollander (played by Jodie Foster) — who are both trying to make sense of exactly what made Mohamedou (played by Tahar Rahim) confess to crimes of terrorism. To do so, Nancy and Stuart must try to gain access to thousands of redacted classified documents.

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REVIEW: Army of the Dead (2021)

Dave Bautista in Zack Snyder’s ‘ARMY OF THE DEAD.’ — Photo: Clay Enos / Netflix.

Directed by Zack Snyder — Screenplay by Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, and Joby Harold.

There is always something special about films that return a filmmaker to his beginnings in some way, shape, or form. Such a film may not always end up as a ‘return to form,’ but for a filmmaker to return to his roots is undeniably exciting. Before Zack Snyder became a fanboy favorite as the director of multiple different graphic novel adaptations such as Man of Steel or 300, his very first feature film was the 2004 remake of the 1970s horror classic Dawn of the Dead. The remake, which was written by James Gunn, is still my favorite film that Snyder has directed, so I was naturally very excited when it was announced that he was returning to the zombie horror sub-genre with Netflix’s Army of the Dead. Although it’s certainly not as good as his previous zombie flick, Snyder’s latest film is definitely worth checking out on Netflix.

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REVIEWS: Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ Film Series (2020)

Letitia Wright as Altheia Jones-LeConte in “Mangrove.” — Photo: Des Willie / Amazon Prime Video.

When British filmmaker Sir Steve McQueen makes a film, you pay attention. McQueen has quietly become one of the best directors of his generation with critical darlings such as the perhaps underseen Michael Fassbender-led films Hunger and Shame, the Oscar-winning Solomon Northup-biopic 12 Years a Slave, and his 2018 heist film Widows, which did not get the awards attention it deserved. In 2020, McQueen released a collection of films — an anthology — titled Small Axe at film festivals and later on, for example, BBC or Prime Video (on the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s streaming service in my territory).

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