All posts by chaos

The Matrix Resurrections

Directed by Lana Wachowski

Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathon Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Backstory

The Matrix was the last movie that truly blew my mind. When my friends dragged me to it in the spring of 1999, I had no idea what I was getting into. As many others have written, it turned out to be one of the most revolutionary sci-fi films of our time. It spawned two sequels that were “good, but not great,” but I still have fond memories of the whole trilogy. The hype for the sequels among my friends at that time was insane. As much as the Star Wars prequels, The Matrix fills me with a fond nostalgia for the early-2000s when I was figuring out what the heck to do with my life. Rumours of a fourth have circulated, well, ever since the third film came out. But it was in 2019 when it was announced that they’d finally signed a deal with one of the Wachowskis — the creators of the whole franchise — to come back for the long awaited fourth film. I waited an extra month to see it at my local theatre…was it worth the wait?

Plot

Thomas Anderson is a highly successful video game designer. 20 years ago, he created a video game trilogy called The Matrix that took the world by storm. But, it came at a cost. The stress of creating the trilogy led Anderson to have a psychotic break. He started believing that he was within the world of The Matrix and that he was Neo, the game’s protagonist. Years of therapy helped him back to himself. But now, as the studio is pressuring him to make a fourth Matrix, Anderson starts having the delusions again…that he is Neo, and he is trapped with in the Matrix. As the delusions increase, Anderson begins wondering. Is he really Neo? And if so, why is he still alive and within the Matrix once again? It’s a mystery that a few familiar friends wearing new faces will help him solve.

What I Liked

Firstly, it’s just great seeing Neo and Trinity together again. Something about seeing the two of them fighting side by side once again just feels right. One thing the Wachowskis have always excelled at is world-building, and Lana does a stellar job of adding some new corners to the world of The Matrix. In doing so, some new villains are introduced that have fascinating motivations. As you can tell by my above plot description, the film does get very self-referential as the characters themselves try to figure out what a fourth Matrix should be.

What I Didn’t Like

I wish the film had the courage to stick to its premise, and really make it ambiguous as to whether Anderson is Neo or if it’s all just a delusion. It does eventually choose a concrete path. The kung-fu that made the original trilogy so distinct has been abandoned for our more modern shaky-cam fights. As strange as this sounds, it all came across as a little too polished. It lacked a certain grit that the original trilogy had. And hey, it has the same problem that Reloaded and Revolutions had: the original was so groundbreaking, that it just can’t live up.

Final Verdict

The Matrix Resurrections gave me something that the other nostalgic hits of this holiday season (e.g. Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Spider-Man: No Way Home) didn’t: a sense of hope. If Neo and Trinity get their second chance, maybe I can get one, too. I really enjoyed it.

3 Nibs

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Directed by Jon Watts

Starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, and Alfred Molina

Backstory

Another year, another Spider-Man film! And the hype for this one has been ridiculous. Rumours growing out of control as to who would be coming back from previous Spider-Man films, which all kicked off when it was announced that Alfred Molina would be reprising his Spider-Man 2 role of Dr. Octopus. With the addition of Dr. Strange and the Marvel Studios TV shows on Disney+ introducing the multiverse, it seemed like it was all possible. But let’s not forget about our hero. With that cliffhanger at the end of Far From Home, everyone wanted to know what was next for our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

Plot

With his dying breath, the villain known as Mysterio outed Peter Parker to the world as Spider-Man. With his true identity now known, Peter’s life has grown a lot more complicated. But when it starts affecting the lives of his girlfriend MJ and his best friend Ned, he knows he has to put a stop to it. So Peter goes to Dr. Strange and asks him to cast a spell to make the entire world forget he’s Spider-Man. But Peter starts getting cold feet, resulting in Dr. Strange botching the spell. Now, the multiverse has fractured, and some of Spider-Man’s greatest foes from other realities have started coming to our own. We’ve got Electro, we’ve got Dr. Octopus, and Spidey’s deadliest foe of all, the Green Goblin. Will Spider-Man be able to send all these villains back to their home dimensions, or will he have to pay the ultimate sacrifice?

What I Liked

Tom Holland is still a spectacular Spider-Man. His youthful charm really makes you love this Spidey. And the return of all the classic villains from the other Spider-Man films really makes this a nostalgic lovefest for the franchise. It’s not just those villains, but there are a few other (poorly kept secret) cameos that just really push this over the top. There’s a lot of heart and a lot of emotion and Spider-Man is really pushed to his limits this time out. It’s good seeing Dr. Strange again. And I really enjoyed the end. It reminded me a lot of the James Bond film Skyfall, in how it really sets the stage for some classic Spidey adventures to come.

What I Didn’t Like

There’s very little in this film to dislike. It might be a little bit long, as I did find myself glancing at my watch a few times.

Final Verdict

Spider-Man: No Way Home isn’t just the culmination of the trilogy that started with Homecoming, but a nostalgic love letter to 20 years of Spider-Man films. I thoroughly loved it.

3.5 Nibs

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Directed by Jason Reitman

Starring McKenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, and Paul Rudd, with special appearances by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts

Backstory

Sony is really trying hard to do something with Ghostbusters. After the 2016 reboot failed to thrill fans or the box office, they decided to try again. It seemed like “legacy” was going to be the theme this time out, as exemplified by the director, Jason Reitman. Reitman made his name as the director of quirky, indie-style films, most notably Juno. But his father is director Ivan Reitman, who gave us the original Ghostbusters. When the first trailer came out, I couldn’t help but note that they were leaning heavily into nostalgia for the original film. As I tweeted, I was conflicted heading into the theatre. Would it just be one massive nostalgia wank for the original film, like Jurassic World was to Jurassic Park? But on the other hand, I love the nostalgia.

Plot

Callie has fallen on hard times. She’s broke, still bitter about her estranged father walking out on her, and is struggling to connect with her two kids: Trevor, who’s going through the usual teenage maladies, and Phoebe, who’s passionate about science and not much else. Callie eventually gets word that her father has died, and with nowhere else to go, she and the kids pack up and move to her father’s dilapidated farmhouse in Summerville, Oklahoma. Phoebe finds a kindred spirit in Mr. Grooberson, the local science teacher. Summerville is plagued by mysterious earthquakes, and Grooberson is investigating. As Phoebe pokes around the old farmhouse, she eventually learns the truth: her grandfather was the legendary Ghostbuster Egon Spengler. Turns out there’s something strange in this neighbourhood. It’s so big and so dire that Egon turned his back on his friends and family to fight it. Will Phoebe, Trevor, and their newfound friends be able to finish Egon’s work and save the world?

What I Liked

Firstly, a little bit of local pride. The entire film was filmed in Southern Alberta, with the Alberta Badlands filling in for Oklahoma, and man, does it look gorgeous on the big screen. The kids are great, as it is mainly their story. McKenna Grace does a wonderful job as Egon’s granddaughter, almost coming across as a little Egon. All the performances are great. I noticed a great use of practical effects, too, as I’m pretty sure some of the ghosts were old school animatronics. It’s also nice that it has some slow spots, to allow our characters to grow and breathe. The score is pretty good, as it most reinterprets the score from the original film.

What I Didn’t Like

Unlike the other Ghostbusters films, this one almost actively avoids being a comedy, and leans more into the sci-fi/fantasy aspects. Don’t get me wrong, it has some great funny moments, but you’re not got going to be quoting it for the next 30 years like the original film.

Final Verdict

I was afraid that the laughs had been replaced with nostalgia, but instead, they were replaced with heart. Wound up being a touching tale about coming to terms with your past and finding your place in the world.

3 Nibs

Eternals

Directed by Chloé Zhao

Starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie

Backstory

We’re really getting into the deep cuts now for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I’m still on board with the franchise. They said Guardians of the Galaxy was too deep a cut, but now, Groot is everywhere. Not only that, but Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao is running the show! With a proven track record and an Oscar-winner behind the camera, how could Marvel go wrong?

Plot

Eternals. Immortal beings created by god-like beings called the Celestials, and sent out to worlds to help burgeoning life grow and evolve. And to also protected said life from Deviants, monstrous creatures who feed on life. The Eternals of Earth eradicated the last of Earth’s Deviants centuries ago, and have gone their separate ways, living among humans. But now, the Deviants have returned, and they have a new objective: they’re hunting down Eternals. The Eternals must reunite to solve the mystery of these new Deviants, and along the way, uncover some harsh truths about their true mission on Earth. With the Eternals be able to stop the Deviants once again and save the Earth?

What I Liked

So many great new characters are introduced here. They’re led by Sersi, played by Gemma Chan, who is struggling with new role as leader. Kumail Nanjiani, as expected, brings the funny as Kingo, who went off to India and became a big Bollywood star. Lia McHugh as Sprite is the most compelling. She’s immortal, but she’s stuck at age 13, and is starting to grow resentful at having never been able to grow up. And, the casting that made headlines, Angelina Jolie as Thena, a warrior who’s millennia of battle has given her a sci-fi variation of PTSD. The characters really make it shine.

What I Didn’t Like

With the plethora of new characters, the film does start to feel rather cluttered. Throw in the fact that you’re introducing new concepts like the Celestials, and it all gets to be a little too much. And when you start throwing in too much, it starts feeling a little too long. It’s like Avengers: Age of Ultron in that way. It’s doing so much set-up for the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that it gets bogged down.

Final Verdict

Marvel’s first attempt at gigantic, cosmic-scale sci-fi is a bit of a miss, but it has one hell of a cliffhanger ending that makes me want to see how it all plays out. Good, but not great.

2.5 Nibs

No Time To Die

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

Starring Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Christoph Waltz, and Ralph Fiennes

Backstory

No Time to Die has to be one of the most troubled James Bond productions. After his infamous interview around the release of Spectre, where Daniel Craig said he’d rather slash his wrists than play Bond again, that sparked a whole bunch of rampant media speculation as to whether Craig would be returning or not. Craig did eventually sign on, and then they had trouble keeping a director. They finally found a keeper in Cary Joji Fukunaga, And then, COVID closed the movie theaters. It’s original November 2019 release date got pushed back all the way to October 2021. But, as it was made clear that this would be Craig’s final outing, this led to a unique opportunity: the creators could give Bond a definitive ending.

Plot

Spectre ends with Bond riding off into the sunset with his newfound love Dr. Madeleine Swann. The film starts shortly after. Bond believes that Swann sold him out to Spectre, and he and Swann part ways. Five years later, Bond is living in retirement in Jamaica, when his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter pays a call. Turns out a former Spectre scientist working for the British Secret Service has been abducted. Knowing what project that scientist was working on, Bond is pressed back into service, much to the chagrin of his former bosses, and Agent Nomi, who has inherited the 007 number. It’s a mission that will have Bond running into friends both old and new, back into the life of Madeleine, and on the trail of a rogue assassin name Safin. Will Bond be able to track down Safin and save the world?

What I Liked

As is the hallmark for the James Bond films, there’s some truly spectacular action sequences. We get, not just one, but several great James Bond car chases. Craig gives it his all in his final outing as Bond, as does the entire cast. I think Ralph Fiennes makes a fantastic M, and I hope they keep him around for the next Bond. And there’s some truly great Easter eggs and callbacks to the rest of the franchise…specifically, some musical ones that Hans Zimmer slipped into his score.

What I Didn’t Like

At 2 hours and 43 minutes, this is officially the longest James Bond film, and it feels like it. Sadly, was looking at my watch more than once. And Rami Malek’s Safin remains just a little too mysterious for a villain. We never really get to know him.

Final Verdict

A spectacular sendoff to the Daniel Craig era of James Bond. I’ve loved them, but I sure hope the next Bond gets back to formula.

3.5 Nibs

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Venom: Let There Be Carnage movie poster

Directed by Andy Serkis

Starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, and Woody Harrelson

Backstory

Sony continues to try to make the “Spider-Man supporting characters universe” a thing, and what better place to start than with Venom, the evil Spider-Man-turned-anti-hero? The first film, Venom, surprised a lot of people by developing an almost goofy buddy-cop dynamic between Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiot. So, it looked like the sequel would continue in that direction. Throw in Venom’s arch-enemy Carnage as the villain, and it looked to be a pretty good film. Does Let There Be Carnage stack up to the original?

Plot

Eddie Brock seems to be getting his life back in order. A series of interviews with convicted serial killer Cletus Kassidy has put his career back on track. But, Brock is at odds with his new partner, the alien symbiot known as Venom. Venom wants to be out on the streets, eating the heads of evil-doers, but Brock is trying to keep Venom’s murderous rage in check. Things reach a head when the Venom symbiot rejects Brock one night and heads out to make his own path in the world. But, things have taken a turn. In his final interview with Kassidy, Venom left his spawn behind. The spawn bonds with Kassidy to become Carnage, and they head out into the night to go on a murderous rampage. Will Brock and Venom reconcile to save the city from Carnage?

What I Liked

Tom Hardy once again gives us another wonderfully twisted relationship between Brock and Venom. They are just as goofy as they were in first movie. The action has gotten a little better as it’s easier to make out the two CGI blobs fighting each other. And the film is short, which keeps things moving nice and quick. Which sadly leads to….

What I Didn’t Like

Because of the film’s short length, it feels like we really don’t get enough Carnage. It would have been nice to have explored the Venom/Carnage relationship a little bit more, and maybe get more Venom/Carnage battles. And Venom and Brock spend far too much time separated.

Final Verdict

It could have really used a little more development for our supporting players. It was fun, but a little too brief.

2.5 Nibs

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Starring Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley, and Tony Leung

Backstory

Marvel continue to dig deep into their back catalogue with the film adaptation of Shang-Chi. It’s the first Marvel Studios film to feature an Asian hero and a predominantly Asian cast. Shang-Chi in the comics is pretty much the best dang martial arts practitioner in the Marvel Universe. Seems like the perfect set-up for a classic kung-fu film, albeit with some modern superhero tropes. Does Marvel pull it off?

Plot

Shaun seems to be aimless young man living in San Francisco. He works as a parking valet, and spends his nights out partying with his friend Katy. But soon, his past catches up with him. Turns out his real name is Shang-Chi, and his father is the notorious warlord Xu Wenwu, mastermind behind the international terrorist organization known as the Ten Rings. Shang-Chi was raised to be his father’s right hand and chief assassin, but he decided he didn’t want a part of that life and walked away. And now Shang-Chi must return home, reunite with estranged father and sister, and embark upon a dangerous quest. Will Shang-Chi take his place at his father’s side, or will he rise above and become a hero?

What I Liked

Firstly, there’s some great action scenes. We get the usual superhero stuff, like that fight you see on the bus in all the trailers, but there’s some wonderfully poetic stuff as well. The cast is amazing, with Simu Liu cementing his leading man status, and Awkwafina bringing just the right amount of comedy relief. Great special effects as well, as a variety of creature from Chinese mythology eventually join in on the fun.

What I Didn’t Like

Honestly, not much in there that I didn’t like. There’s a variety of henchman and side characters where it would have been nice to learn their stories, but in the end, it was nice to keep the focus on our heroes.

Final Verdict

A story about fathers and sons reconciling dressed up as martial arts superhero fantasy. A very satisfying superhero outing.

3 Nibs

The Suicide Squad

Directed by James Gunn

Starring Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, David Dastmalchian, and Daniela Melchior.

Backstory

It’s very appropriate that Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn is doing the next installment of Suicide Squad. 2016’s Suicide Squad always struck me as DC’s reaction to Guardians of the Galaxy. “Hey, kids, you like wacky bands of misfit superheroes? Well, we’ve got one over at DC, too!” At the end of the day, my biggest complaint with Suicide Squad was how overwhelmingly average it was. If Gunn could inject some of the same heart and humour into The Suicide Squad that he did with Guardians of the Galaxy, then it might turn into something special. So that’s the big question. Is The Suicide Squad something special?

Plot

Task Force X. Unofficially known as the Suicide Squad. Super-villains doing black ops missions for the government in exchange for reductions on their sentences. There’s been a revolution in the South American nation of Corto Maltese. A secret Corto Maltese project known as Project Starfish has officially fallen into the wrong hands. The Squad’s mission: infiltrate Corto Maltese and destroy Project Starfish. Our latest recruits: Bloodsport, an assassin doing time for trying to take down Superman with a kryptonite bullet; Peacemaker, a man who fights for world peace and doesn’t matter how many people he has to kill to make it happen; Ratcatcher II, who can control rats; Polka Dot Man, who shoots dots at people; and King Shark, a giant half-human/half-shark. Joining them from the last film are commander Rick Flagg and Harley Quinn. But, as is the case with missions like this, things quickly go sideways and our heroes find themselves in over their heads. Will they be able to pull off the mission and save the day?

What I Liked

As already revealed in the trailers, Project Starfish turns out to be Starro…a giant mind-controlling starfish from space. I can’t believe we finally got Starro in a movie. He’s portrayed as the perfect blend of absurd and horrifying. I’m glad DC’s starting to stop taking itself so seriously and embracing more of its absurdities. Margot Robbie continues to be absolutely prefect as Harley Quinn. Idris Elba gives Bloodsport the right blend of humour and anger at the situation. And he starts developing a good father/daughter relationship with Ratcatcher. Each of our characters if given a moment to shine, and thus grow. And they take full advantage of that R-rating to give us some 1980s-action-movie-style over-the-top violence.

What I Didn’t Like

Sometimes it does feel like Gunn is trying too hard to recapture what he did with Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m thinking whenever a classic pop song pops up on the soundtrack, or some of King Shark’s antics can feel a little like Groot.

Final Verdict

Feels like DC is finally starting to find their own path, and not just to mimic Marvel. The Suicide Squad is finally something special.

3 Nibs

Jungle Cruise

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti

Backstory

Ever since Disney had a hit with Pirates of the Caribbean, they’ve been trying to get lighting to strike twice with turning their theme park rides into movies. And it seems like they’ve been trying to get Jungle Cruise off the ground ever since. At one point, Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were attached, in the first live-action teaming of the Toy Story stars. But that fell apart. It finally took the star power of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to get it off the ground. It was supposed to come out last year, but like a lot of other films, got pushed back because of COVID. It’s finally here…was it worth it?

Plot

It’s the 1910s. World War I is raging. Adventurer Lily Houghton is on the search for the Tears of the Moon…a near-mythical flower whose petals have mystic healing properties. With a magic map in hand, Lily learns it’s somewhere up the Amazon River. With her brother McGregor by her side, they’re off to the Amazon! They charter a boat from gruff and world-weary Skipper Frank Wolff. Frank isn’t so sure about their mission, because it’s a tough river ahead. But it turns out Frank has own motives for taking them on the cruise. It’s a treacherous journey indeed, as they must sail over the rapids, outrun a sadistic German general in a submarine, and are hunted by undead conquistadors. Will they find the Tears of the Moon and survive this jungle cruise?

What I Liked

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are an adorable duo, just filled with charisma. James Newton Howard delivers an amazing score. There is a pretty good plot twist about halfway through that I thought was pretty great. And the undead conquistadors have some really unique powers. One is essentially a living beehive and commands an army of bees. And it’s cute seeing how they incorporate some aspects of the ride.

What I Didn’t Like

Deciding that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Disney decided to borrow a lot of what made the first Pirates of the Caribbean so memorable. And once they start throwing in the more supernatural elements, it feels kinda like Pirates of the Jungle.

Final Verdict

Jungle Cruise was fun, yet familiar. You’ll probably have a good time.

3 Nibs

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Directed by Robert Schwentke

Starring Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Ursula Corbero, Samara Weaving, Iko Uwais, Haruke Abe, Takehiro Hira, and Peter Mensah

Backstory

Why can’t Hasbro and Paramount figure out what to do for a G.I. Joe movie? Larry Hama created such a rich history for these characters in his comic, and they seem to be running on all cylinders with Transformers. But 2009’s The Rise of Cobra was good but not great, and the 2013 sequel Retaliation couldn’t even be elevated with the star power of Dwayne Johnson as fan favourite Roadblock. So, Hasbro and Paramount decided to do for G.I. Joe what they did with Transformers: a prequel-slash-reboot focusing on the origins of one of the franchise’s most popular characters. And for G.I. Joe, that would be the always silent, always masked ninja Snake Eyes. But a prequel where he’s not masked and talks? How will this fare?

Plot

Ever since he saw his father murdered before his eyes, the nameless man known only as Snake Eyes has had only one thing on his mind: revenge. One day, he’s approached by the Yakuza and hired for a dangerous mission: infiltrate an ancient ninja clan known as the Arishikage. If Snake Eyes can do this, the Yakuza will deliver the killer of Snake Eyes’ father to him. Snake Eyes does this by warming up to Tommy Arishikage, the one destined to lead the clan someday. He also begins getting close to Akiko, the clan’s head of security. But the closer Snake Eyes gets, the more he finds his loyalties divided, especially when he learns that the Yakuza are working with Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world. With the Arishikage calling on the G.I. Joe known as Scarlett for help, Snake Eyes has to choose: will he avenge his father, or align himself with his newfound family?

What I Liked

The cast is certainly game. Henry Golding gives it his all as Snake Eyes, and Andrew Koji has wonderful smoldering intensity as Tommy, the man who will become Storm Shadow. The film looks great as well, taking place mostly in a neon-lit Tokyo. Think Hawkeye’s introduction in Avengers: Endgame, but for an entire film.

What I Didn’t Like

Samara Weaving is great as Scarlett, but it’s pretty much just a glorified cameo. The plot gets kind of muddled in the middle. It’s like someone went, “Wait a minute…this is a comic book movie!” and they figured they had to add more fantastical elements. Character motivations start getting clouded in order to compensate. And I’m really nitpicking now, but in some scenes, Henry Golding kind of forgets to do his American accent and his natural British accent comes through.

Final Verdict

I found Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins to be somewhat underwhelming. I keep holding out hope for a great G.I. Joe film, but sadly, this isn’t it.

2.5 Nibs