Additional Bite-Sized Reviews, Summer ’21, Pt. 3: ‘The White Lotus,’ ‘Malcolm & Marie,’ and More

Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy in THE WHITE LOTUS — Photo: HBO.

In this edition of my monthly movie and television catch-up article series titled ‘Additional Bite-Sized Reviews,’ I once again talk about my experience of trying to catch-up on some of the 2021 films released earlier this year, but this time I also want to talk about a show that I was surprised I liked as much as I did. What did I like about The White Lotus? Is Malcolm & Marie better than its reputation? Are Antoine Fuqua and Stefano Sollima’s latest action films any good? Well, scroll down to find out what I think about all of that (and more) in yet another jam-packed edition of Additional Bite-Sized Reviews!

Continue reading “Additional Bite-Sized Reviews, Summer ’21, Pt. 3: ‘The White Lotus,’ ‘Malcolm & Marie,’ and More”

REVIEW: Dune (2021)

Josh Brolin, left, as Gurney Halleck and Timothée Chalamet, right, as Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE — Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures / Legendary Pictures.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) — Screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth.

When science-fiction neophytes first lay their eyes on the marketing material for Denis Villeneuve’s latest science-fiction film, Dune, they should be forgiven, if they immediately remark that it looks like an imitation of Star Wars — or other similar films. Obviously, they would be under a false impression, but, after all, it is a little bit strange that one of Star Wars‘ most obvious sources of inspiration — Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune — has not previously generated a widely known or appreciated adaptation.

In fact, the Dune property is perhaps especially renowned for being difficult to adapt. Famously, Alejandro Jodorowsky tried but failed to get an adaptation off the ground, while David Lynch’s adaptation from 1984 was critically panned. Those ‘failed’ attempts are, in fact, more widely known than the Sci-Fi Channel mini-series that the franchise also spawned. Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. have now entrusted auteur Denis Villeneuve with the job of adapting Frank Herbert’s rich, influential, and dense source material, and I think that was a very smart decision.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Dune (2021)”

REVIEW: Chaos Walking (2021)

Daisy Ridley as Viola and Tom Holland as Todd Hewitt in Doug Liman’s CHAOS WALKING — Photo: Lionsgate.

Directed by Doug Liman — Screenplay by Patrick Ness & Christopher Ford.

On paper, this should be a huge hit. It’s a science-fiction action film starring Tom Holland of Spider-Man fame and Daisy Ridley of Star Wars fame, they are surrounded by a more than capable cast including the incredible Mads Mikkelsen (Another Round), and the film was directed by Edge of Tomorrow‘s Doug Liman. And yet this is a film that has been through quite a lot of behind-the-scenes work. It has gone through several rounds of rewrites and expensive reshoots, and it, reportedly, was the victim of poor reception at test screenings. After having had its release delayed several times, Chaos Walking is now here, but while it has all the ingredients of a film made for me, it just doesn’t work as a complete package.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Chaos Walking (2021)”

REVIEW: The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)

The Mitchell family (voiced by Maya Rudolph, Abbi Jacobson, Michael Rianda, and Danny McBride) in THE MITCHELLS vs. THE MACHINES — Photo: Sony Pictures Animation / Netflix.

Directed by Michael Rianda (Gravity Falls) — Screenplay by Mike Rianda & Jeff Rowe.

Sometimes it’s difficult to really gauge whether or not the hype for a film is justified or not. From the outset, what I had heard about The Mitchells vs. The Machines sounded really good. The premise was neat, I liked what I had seen of its animation style in trailers, but I wasn’t sure if it would work as a total package once I finally felt ready to sit down and watch the film, which had been on my watchlist for quite some time. The reactions that I had heard from my peers also made it sound like far and away one of the best animated films in years, which was overwhelming information that I didn’t know what to do with at that moment since I was a little bit too busy when it was released. I ended up waiting a considerable amount of time before I finally watched it, which meant that when I finally felt the urge to start up Netflix and watch their Lord & Miller-produced animated hit, the hype had sort of died down at least a little bit. So, having now seen the film, do I think the hype was justified? Well, yeah. Though I was trepidatious initially, the film more than won me over.

Continue reading “REVIEW: The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)”

REVIEW: Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings (2021)

Simu Liu as Shang-Chi in SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGENDS OF THE TEN RINGS — Photo: Marvel Studios / Jasin Boland / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton — Screenplay by Destin Daniel Cretton, Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984), and Andrew Lanham.

The future of the movie theater industry has been the source of much debate in film fan circles during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. Films have had their theatrical release delayed, some films have been released on premium-video-on-demand, such as Disney+ with Premiere Access, at the same time that they have been released in theaters, while, in the United States, most if not all Warner Bros. films from 2021 have been released in movie theaters and on HBO Max for no additional cost on the very same day, which was the case with The Suicide Squad. So, in addition to the fact that movie theaters have to accept the ongoing pandemic, movie theaters now also contend with subscriptions, streaming services, and premium-video-on-demand.

Now, it would appear that movie theaters have also begun to fight back against this trend with the one thing they can do, which is to refuse to release a studio’s film in theaters. Strangely, although it, unlike Black Widow, has not been released on Disney+ with Premiere Access, major theater chains have stuck by their Disney boycott with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. In Denmark, I think only about ten theaters are showing it currently, which is a real shame because Shang-Chi is rad and well-worth the price of admission.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings (2021)”

REVIEW: Candyman (2021)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in Nia DaCosta’s CANDYMAN (2021) — Photo: Universal Pictures.

Directed by Nia DaCosta — Screenplay by Nia DaCosta, Win Rosenfeld, & Jordan Peele (Get Out; Us).

Horror remakes, reimaginings, or sequels decades after a popular antagonist’s inception are inevitable. This movie studio trend was especially prevalent in the 2010s, when it was emphasized just how profitable decent-to-good horror films can be. One of the more stylized attempts was Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake, while one of the more disappointing attempts was Kölsch & Widmyer’s Pet Sematary remake. Horror remakes are a dime a dozen these days, but the current horror movie trend is the legacyquel — a portmanteau of legacy and sequel — which is a continuation of a previous film but one that takes place a long time after the events of the original film and often with entirely new characters. Another trend is that of ignoring some films in the franchise, for the purpose of taking the franchise in another direction. Such is the case with a legacyquel like David Gordon Green’s Halloween. Another legacyquel that ignores certain chapters in its own cinematic mythology, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, which really ought to have a different title for simplicity’s sake, follows many horror movie trends, but perhaps most notably those kickstarted by her producer and co-writer Jordan Peele.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Candyman (2021)”

REVIEW: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren in Michael Chaves’ THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT — Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Directed by Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) — Screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick.

Cinematic universes and film series with numerous spin-offs — in the vein of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — are all the rage these days. The primary example of this in the horror genre is the Conjuring film-universe, which, at this point in time, consists of eight films. This horror film cinematic universe was essentially launched by James Wan, who is probably one of the most influential horror filmmakers of the last ten years, and his films in the series — The Conjuring I and II — are, frankly, the best and most memorable films in the entire film series. For that reason, I was very nervous when I heard that he would step away from the franchise and let Michael Chaves, who directed The Curse of La Llorona (which I really did not like), continue, or potentially finish, the titular series of films in the Conjuring film-universe. After having now seen the third main-line Conjuring-film, I can say that even though it is nowhere near as good as Wan’s films, Chaves’ second film in this film universe is admittedly significantly better than his previous film.

Continue reading “REVIEW: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)”

Additional Bite-Sized Reviews, Summer ’21, Pt. 2: ‘The Fear Street Trilogy,’ ‘Bad Trip,’ and More

Maya Hawke as Heather in FEAR STREET PART ONE: 1994 – Photo: Netflix.

In this edition of my monthly movie and television catch-up article series titled ‘Additional Bite-Sized Reviews,’ I talk about my experience of trying to catch-up on some of the 2021 films released earlier this year, including an entire trilogy of films! What did I think about the Fear Street-films? Is the Rear Window-inspired flick, The Woman in the Window, worth a watch? Is Bad Trip, the hidden camera comedy, funny enough for its runtime? Are Doug Liman and Alexandre Aja’s latest films any good? Well, scroll down to find out in another jam-packed edition of Additional Bite-Sized Reviews!

Continue reading “Additional Bite-Sized Reviews, Summer ’21, Pt. 2: ‘The Fear Street Trilogy,’ ‘Bad Trip,’ and More”

REVIEW: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

The enormous ape ‘Kong’ (right) journeys to the center of the Earth and goes head to head with the giant radioactive lizard ‘Godzilla’ (left) in Adam Wingard’s GODZILLA vs. KONG — Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures / Legendary Pictures.

Directed by Adam Wingard (‘The Guest’; ‘Blair Witch‘; and ‘Death Note‘) — Screenplay by Eric Pearson & Max Borenstein.

Versus-films are certainly nothing new. Films with titles such as Godzilla vs. Kong will probably always make me think of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator and its tagline: “Whoever wins, we lose,” which, in turn, makes me think of both Ronny Yu’s Freddy vs. Jason and Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. None of those films are necessarily highly regarded by the vast majority of film critics, though I enjoy a couple of them, but there is of course one versus-film that trumps them all, Robert Benton’s legal drama Kramer vs. Kramer. That Oscar-winning masterpiece, which is nothing like the aforementioned films, is however, to put it mildly, an exception to the general rule, which is that versus-films are — at least now — mostly known as these show-stopping mash-up popcorn films. That is certainly the case with Adam Wingard’s latest film. It is, as one expected, nowhere near as good as Benton’s film, but it is, however, better than most of the other films that I’ve mentioned in this paragraph. Because Godzilla vs. Kong is a fun popcorn movie, which, with these kinds of blockbusters, is all you can ask for.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)”

REVIEW: The Suicide Squad (2021)

David Dastmalchian, John Cena, Idris Elba, and Daniela Mechior in THE SUICIDE SQUAD — Photo: Jessica Miglio / Warner Bros.

Directed by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) — Screenplay by James Gunn.

Over the years, I have certainly not tried to hide the fact that I think 2016’s Suicide Squad, which was directed by David Ayer (though he has repeatedly made it clear that the film was essentially taken away from him as a result of studio interference), is, to put it mildly, one of my least favorite films ever made in the superhero genre. That 2016 film certainly reeked of studio interference, it was an almost incoherent mess, it was needlessly grimy and at times quite ugly, it used a decent soundtrack as a crutch and in a way that became incredibly tiring, all the while failing to get you to care about the characters or the relationships they were building. There were some decent things about it, but, on the whole, it felt like someone had tried to turn Ayer’s vision into a shameless imitation of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and that just didn’t work for the film that Ayer had envisioned.

Continue reading “REVIEW: The Suicide Squad (2021)”