Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Director: Peyton Reed

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, Katy O’Brian, William Jackson Harper, Bill Murray, Michelle Pfeiffer, Corey Stoll, and Michael Douglas

Review: I think it’s time to admit something. I might just be a Marvel fanboy after all. Because 13 years and 30+ movies in, I don’t think they’ve made a bad movie yet. Even this one, which is very divisive so far, I don’t understand the hate for at all. Personally, I’d easily rank this in the upper half of their output. While a lot of people left shrugging or down right hating on it, I personally loved the experience. I had the biggest grin on my face the entire time and would’ve been shocked to hear of the mixed reception if I hadn’t already known about it going in.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, the best thing this movie has going for it is Jonathan Majors’ Kang. This is our first real introduction to (evil) Kang and what an introduction it is. I will admit that this is a weird movie to meet him. After all, Ant-Man movies have never had the highest of stakes. And, honestly, throwing him into a place where he doesn’t have control of time and then never properly explaining how nerfed he is may have been the wrong choice. But. There is something about this man’s presence that scares the shit out of me. The way he delivers his lines, talking about past conquests or threatening Scott, makes me believe he is capable of truly terrible things. And, even without his signature power, the threat he presented to these characters was very real. He lays down some of the most vicious beatdowns we’ve seen on this PG-13 side of the Marvel multiverse. You can say all you want about the ending (no spoilers), but Kang still very much feels like a very real threat to me. I think he’s going to easily be on par with Thanos when everything is said and done. And I absolutely cannot wait to see it all unfold. I think we’re in for something special in these next two phases.

Now, the rest of the movie. The best way I can explain the plot of Quantumania is “imagine a couple MCU characters got sucked into Star Wars” because that’s exactly what this feels like. Our characters our brought into a mythical battle between good and evil that’s been raging without them for years. There’s a larger than life villain in his ivory towers with a henchman designed specifically to be the best killing machine around, who mostly keeps his face hidden, and an army of indistinguishable troops. Meanwhile, there is an underground rebellion underdogs led by a character who would feel right at home in Rogue One band of misfits. There are droids. There’s a cantina. Prison breaks. And, ultimately, the ending even feels like a mashup of a couple different classic Star Wars endings. I got Clone Wars vibes early and that feeling never wore off. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I like Star Wars. I’ve dreamt of a crossover (that deep down I know is a bad idea) for years. It’s just odd exactly how similar this was to that iconic saga.

And, of course, there are the characters we’ve all come to know and love at this point, back and better than ever. Honestly, this may be Paul Rudd’s best performance in the MCU so far. He’s given more to do than just be comic relief guy, which is definitely cool. It feels like every other character has had this dramatic, life altering arc and Scott’s just been goofball Scott. Seeing how he reacts when his family is put on the line, especially Cassie, humanized him more than any of his other outings of the past 8 years. Oh, and speaking of Cassie. We’ve got our second recast of the franchise, but I honestly didn’t mind much because Kathryn Newton does a phenomenal job here. It’s cool to see her developing into a more interesting character than just ”Scott’s daughter” as she trains to be a hero of own. Cassie’s got quite the history in the comics. She’s a character I’ve been a fan of for years and I’m excited to see what Newton brings to the role in the future. (Please just green light a Young Avengers movie already, Kevin.) Hank Pam gets more of a chance to shine here too, actually showing off his brilliance and badassery. But, honestly, the biggest improvement was in Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet, because she was actually given something to do for once. Her tense, scared reaction to Kang set the table for everything else that followed. I honestly wasn’t a big fan of Janet’s in the last movie, but she won me over here. And, lastly, MODOK. Now, I can’t say a lot because pretty much everything about this character is a spoiler. But, wow, he is so much fun. I had a smile on my face the entire time he was on screen. I really, really enjoyed this take.

As you can probably tell, I loved Quantumania. I really do not understand where the criticism is coming from. I thought it was a fun sci-fi adventure flick with characters we already know facing off a truly incredible, frightening villain. I thought it did a fantastic job of telling a relatively self contained story while also setting up several projects worth of stories. Seriously, I don’t get it at all. But, then again, it seems like I’ve been on the outside looking in for most MCU projects lately. But, I’m not going to fret about it too much. I’m going to just keep loving me some Marvel, especially if they make movies of this quality. And I have a feeling Phases 5 and 6 will be exactly that.

TL;DR: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a fun, semi-derivative sci-fi adventure, but Kang absolutely rules.

Score: 9/10 (Amazing)

Dyl’s Favorite Movies of 2022

Helllo everyone! Welcome to the biggest night in show business. Forget the Oscars. Forget the Golden Globes (already done, amirite). And forget the SAGs. That’s right. It’s time for Dylan’s Top Ten list!!!

Honestly, this has been a pretty good year. Making the Top 10 list was extremely tough. There were a lot of movies I’d give 8s or 9s that simply did not make the cut. I love them. They’ll be in my heart always. But, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and when the competition is this stiff, I’ve got to make some difficult decisions. Some of my favorite movies of all-time came out this year, which makes writing up something like this both incredibly rewarding and incredibly difficult.

So, let’s jump to it… after a few disclaimers of course.

As always, these opinions are solely mine. Additionally, they are very personal. It’s all about how these movies made me feel, how they stuck with me, and how likely I am to revisit them time and again for years to come. If you disagree with some of my takes, that’s awesome. I love that you had a different experience than me. Heck, bring it up to me. But, please, be civil.

The other quick disclaimer. I have not seen everything. I’ve seen a lot (60+) but there are definitely some moderately successful movies I missed. So, again, this list is not conclusive. If there’s something you really, really loved and it’s slightly obscure, there’s a chance I haven’t seen it. Bring it up and I’ll put it on my list of things to checkout.

Ok, onto the awards then the list!

Best Supporting Actress

And the nominees are… Women Talking was packed to the brim with brilliant supporting performances but Jessie Buckley’s tragic turn was just barely my favorite. Hong Chau went toe to toe with Fraser in The Whale and, honestly, came away with an underrated performance that’s nearly as good. Everything Everywhere All at Once asked a lot of Stephanie Hsu as the troubled daughter turned villain but she absolutely gave everything and then some. Zoe Kravitz gave us the most relatable Catwoman to date, allowing her to be both vulnerable and incredibly badass. And, unraveling the mysterious past of Anya Taylor-Joy’s character was half the thrill of the excellent The Menu.

And the winner is…

Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once: For as good as Everything Everywhere is, I don’t know if it would’ve hit so hard emotionally if the mother-daughter relationship wasn’t 1000% believable. And, Hsu more than did her part to make sure that it was. One of the most relatable characters in the movie, it’s cathartic to see her go from heartbroken young woman trying to impress her mother to badass destroyer of universes and then all of the other places this total blast of a movie takes her. I mean… how many actors do you know that could give a monologue about bagels that changed my goddamn life? Seriously, she’s amazing. I haven’t seen her in much else, but I will definitely be keeping a (googly) eye open after this killer performance.

Best Supporting Actor

And the nominees are… I dare you to watch On the Count of Three and not fall in love with Christopher Abbott’s both incredibly charming and heartbreaking character. Timothee Chalamet continues to crush the game as the cannibalistic mentor/lover in Bones and All. The Batman may have given us the scariest Batman villain ever in the form of Paul Dano’s Riddler. Brendan Gleeson made what could’ve been an unlikeable douche sort of relatable in The Banshees of Inisherin. And Ke Huy Quan had the comeback of the century playing the loving, goofy, kind-hearted, and (sometimes) badass father/husband in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

And the winner is…

Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin: Here’s the thing; I should’ve hated this character. After all, he’s a pretentious douchebag who just suddenly on a whim decides that he’s too good for the man he’s had a decades long friendship with. And, worse yet, he’s willing to go through some pretty extreme measures to keep this poor, dumb man out of his life (no spoilers but holy crap). Yet, he’s some sympathetic, due mostly to Gleeson’s acting abilities. You can feel the pain the man goes through. He doesn’t want to hurt his friend. He doesn’t want to be this over the top. He just would like to be left alone. And, in the quieter moments of the film, you can read all of that on Gleeson’s face. It’s a brilliant performance, a fascinating character, and a fun, unique viewing experience. Check it out if you haven’t.

Best Actress

And the nominees are… I didn’t love TAR, but I will always stan Cate Blanchett and her jaw dropping acting abilities. Mia Goth took a one note villain from X and turned it into the performance of a lifetime in the prequel, Pearl. The tragic, beautiful, disgusting love scene in Bones and All alone would earn Taylor Russell this nomination. Letitia Wright had my entire theater both sobbing and cheering excitedly in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. And Michelle Yeoh gave a not one, not two, but several of the year’s best performances in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

And the winner is…

Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once; Holy crap. What a performance. Or… as I said earlier, performances. I don’t know that a role has every required so much out of a performer. She had to be distant and manipulative but then kind and caring. Helpless and scared, then a literal Kung Fu master. Stern and serious, then extremely goofy and silly. I’ve never seen an actor have to act in so many different genres in one film. All while maintaining enough of a link that it would be obvious this was the same character. When you really think about, there really was no choice but to honor Yeoh with this award. She put in the work of everyone else nominated combined.

Best Actor

And the nominees are: Daniel Craig is even better as Benoit Blanc than he was as James Bond and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery just further illustrates that point. Brendan Fraser gave a career best performance as a depressed, dying college professor in The Whale. War is hell and Felix Krammerer showed us that better than almost any other actor in the cinematic history. Robert Pattinson became my favorite Batman in The Batman, which is quite the accomplishment in his first outing. And Alexander Skarsgard absolutely crushed it as the Viking trying to get retribution for his father’s death.

And the winner is…

Brendan Fraser, The Whale: I’m going to start off by saying a controversial opinion of mine. I was not a huge fan of The Whale. I think it has a lot of problems, including mostly being sadness porn and I don’t think the message landed quite as well as many claim it did. That having been said… Fraser definitely deserves all of the praise he’s gotten. His performance is truly phenomenal. I forgot that I was watching someone act on more than one occasion. It almost feels like a documentary. And the levels of his soul that he bared on screen; incredible. It’s amazing that he had this in him. Before this, I was convinced that he was a likable enough guy, but not really all that talented. I will now fully admit that I was wrong. Because, holy crap, what a comeback. One of the best performances of all-time for sure.

Best Director

And the nominees are: If you don’t feel James Cameron earned his spot here, allow me to remind you that nothing you see on screen in Avatar: The Way of Water actually existed. It’s all Cameron and his team making it happen. Robert Eggers took what is really a pretty simple story and made it feel like an all-time epic in The Northman. Rain Johnson continued his quest to turn the murder mystery on it’s head in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert easily made the most ambitious movie of the year. And Matt Reeves did the impossible by reinventing and reinvigorating Gotham yet again in The Batman.

And the winner is…

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once; This might sound like an over exaggeration but I promise I mean it. I think The Dans might’ve changed cinema forever with this movie. Legitimately, I don’t think anyone has ever been quite as ambitious with a movie. Or, at least, in the last 15 years or so. What they did on Everything Everywhere is truly artistic expression at its best. The fact that they were able to balance such a silly tone with tragic, beautiful undertones is absolutely amazing. I mean… one of the most emotional, poignant moments in the movie features two rocks talking to each other in subtitles. And it freaking works. Extremely well. I already knew these guys were geniuses from Swiss Army Man, but it’s nice to see that they’re really taking off now. I hope this is just the beginning of a long, strange, beautiful resume.

Dylan’s Top 10 Movies of 2022

10. Women Talking

And this is why I make sure to watch all of the Oscar nominees before writing my Top 10 list. Because you never quite know which “borderline pretentious” independent flick is going to strike a cord with you. In this case, Women Talking did just that. On the surface, it is a movie about nothing but… well, women talking. However, the conversation is so fluid and tense and, frankly, captivating that the time flew by. Seriously, I saw movies shorter than this in 2022 but none felt like such a quick watch. But that’s what happens when you’re hanging on to every word. It doesn’t hurt that this cast is packed to the brim with truly spectacular actresses either. I was constantly jumping back and forth between who I think gave the best performance. Now maybe I’m just a special breed. I love watching a good debate. So, maybe I’m more inclined to be into this sort of thing than the average moviegoer. But, if you’re at all like me, I think you’ll be into Women Talking too.

9. Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. I am not a huge fan of the original Top Gun. I think it’s a fun little movie, but a tad overrated. It’s just not as emotional or thrilling as many seem to think it is. This, however, has everything the original does but pumped up to 11. Holy crap was I invested in this movie. First of all, the flying sequences were incredibly tense. It’s been a long time since aerial battle sequences had me on the edge of my seat like that. And the way that they were shot where you were in the cabin with the actors added a whole different level of realism that took it to another level. But, it was all thrills as we were able to get intensely emotional with these characters as well. Maverick wasn’t just the poster boy for the Air Force’s recruitment wing anymore. He felt like an actual human being with insecurities and doubts with Tom Cruise giving his best performance in years. That reunion scene with Iceman? Cried like a freaking baby. Now, I don’t know how it holds up on home media. I haven’t rewatched it, but Top Gun: Maverick was one of the best theater going experiences I had of the year.

8. Avatar: The Way of Water

Speaking of not knowing how things will hold up. My thoughts on Avatar are… complicated. I will very often join in on those that are saying these movies have almost no cultural impact and that they lose 25% of their value the moment they leave the big screen. I get it. I agree with it. Heck, the day after The Way of Water came out I was referring to it as “simply okay.” But… here we are. Time to wrap up the year and it’s still sticking with me. I just couldn’t leave it off of the list after thinking back on all the things it made me feel during the cinematic experience. And what is cinema if not different experiences. Seeing the Na’vi swim alongside massive sea creatures who understand their emotions through wavelengths (or whatever) is going to stick with me for forever. Avatar may be flawed, but it’s such a unique, thrilling experience that it simply cannot be left out of the discussion for best of the year.

7. On the Count of Three

Odds are pretty good that you haven’t seen On the Count of Three. Heck, you’ve probably never even heard of it. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’ really is THAT good. In fact, I may have it ranked a little low in fear that I’ll be judged as trying to be different for having it here. I’m not. This is one of the greatest experiences I had watching a movie this year. Now, I’m not going to go into too much detail because I do want people to check this out. Let me just set the table though. Two depressed friends decide they’d like to off themselves, but the one decides that he’d like a day to sort of tidy things up. What follows is a hilarious and often tragic story of how people end up in that circumstance and how beautiful the little things can be. Now, is this for everyone? No. It obviously deals with a lot of heavy issues and can be quite dark, but, if you’re willing to take the dive, I think you’ll see why it’s more than worthy of this spot.

6. The Northman

Story wise, The Northman is not all that unique. You’ve seen variations of this story a million times. It’s Hamlet. It’s The Odyssey. It’s The Lion King. But the way Robert Eggers tells it makes this feel larger than life. It reminds you of why this type of story is passed down from generation to generation, as every moment takes on a level of epicness rarely seen in adaptations. It’s a tale as old as time, but it feels fresh and rejuvenated as you’re experiencing it. I mean… two people fight to the death in a volcano for crying out loud… naked. If that’s not award worthy I don’t know what it. Oh, and it’s another one packed with big name actors giving their 110%. I’ve already brought up Skarsgard, but Anya Taylor Joy, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, and Ethan Hawke are also bringing their all here. It’s truly a masterpiece of epic, manly proportions.

5. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

For years now, the biggest question on my mind when it came to the MCU’s future was “What are they going to do with the Black Panther? How do you carry on after something so tragic?” We finally got our answer this year and the results were absolutely stunning. Frankly, the first ten minutes of this movie may be the most mature in superhero movie history. It’s such a beautiful tribute to Chadwick Bozeman and his onscreen legacy. But, what really amazed me was how they were able to translate that grief into a superhero story with a big bad without it feeling cheap. It never once felt like they were “Darn. Well, anyways…” The loss of T’Challa and Shuri’s grief towards that permeates every inch of this movie. Yet, it never feels overly gratuitous either. It’s maybe the biggest challenge Marvel Studios has come across yet and I’m truly proud of how well they balanced everything.

4. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

I did not know I need a second one, but, if Knives Out movies keep being this good, I may have a new favorite franchise on my hands. I’m telling you Rian Johnson has a grip on my interest with this franchise. First of all, I’m always down for a good murder mystery. Plain and simple. Second, he packs the cast with A-list celebrities playing interesting, funny, complicated characters. And, third, he takes what you think you already know going in and completely turns everything on its head. Honestly, he’s a genius. And these movies are a perfect example of that. Of course, that’s only going to make the discourse around tThe Last Jedi all the more frustrating for me in the future but I digress. See the Knives Out movies! They’re so good!

3. All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front might be a contender for best war movie of all-time. If Top Gun: Maverick can be seen as pro-military propaganda, All Quiet is the exact opposite. This movie shows the atrocity of war in ways very view movies do. You just watch as this fun, light hearted young man from the beginning of the movie loses all sense of humanity after experiencing hardship after hardship during WWI. It also does a fair job at showing that sometimes war isn’t even about territory’s or patriotism. A lot of the time its about one or two big shot’s egos getting stepped on and their ability to sacrifice the youths of their country just to make themselves feel a little better. Truly tragic. But definitely important, beautiful cinema.

2. The Batman

Ready for another controversial Dylan take? I don’t that any live-action adaptations have truly understood Batman until Matt Reeves’ The Batman came along. Because this is absolutely going to be my go-to version of the character from now on. He’s dark, brooding, has anger problems, and definitely needs some therapy like all of the others BUT he’s also a symbol of hope, truly caring about those around him, and wanted to make the world a better place. Maybe it’s just me but the other Batmen always felt a little… self centered. Like, they were doing the right thing but not because they loved the city or anything but because they were hurt. That’s not how I see Batman. I think he’s a legit good person who wants to see the best possible version of the world around him. He just knows that the best way to do that is through fear and intimidation. And I got all of that in The Batman. Heck, I got it all from the one scene where he leads victims out of the flooding sports complex. I’m excited for James Gunn to reboot DC and make it consistent across the board, but he better leave this universe alone. Because if this is the only Battinson movie I get, I will riot. Seriously. It’s that freaking good.

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Oh my god. What a freaking movie. As I’ve said, this was an incredible year with a ton of really good, unique cinematic experiences. It was tough to make the top ten. But, nothing even came close to Everything Everywhere All at Once. When it was released, every other movie fell to a distant second place at best. There’s no competition. It’s in a league of its own. And, I’ve said a lot about it. But.. I could go on all day about this incredible piece of art. First of all, it’s remarkably original. In a sea of remakes, retreads, or just plain retelling of classic stories, it’s refreshing to see such a unique, interesting, fresh voice on the scene. Second, it’s so ambitious. I’m not over exaggerating when I saw that it’s impossible to tell you what genre Everything Everywhere fits. It’s a comedy. It’s a drama. It’s an action movie. It’s sci-if. It’s fantasy. It’s everything. If I were to break this list down by Top Five of each genre, this movie would top 90% of them. And, it tells an absolutely beautiful story about generational trauma, letting go of your failures, and learning to appreciate the little moments. Loving exactly what you’ve got instead of longing for more. The visuals are insanely creative too with The Dans never going for the easiest shot. Constantly finding new, visually interesting ways to tell this story. And the story goes so many different ways, there’s no way you’ll be able to guess exactly what’s going to happen next. I’ve seen it three times so far and every time my mind is blown. It hasn’t lost any of its charm yet and I don’t think it ever will. Not only is Everything Everywhere All at Once one my easy pick for movie of the year. It might me one of my favorites of all-time. Such a masterpiece. I recommend everyone at least giving it a shot. At the very least, you’ll have an experience you’ll never forget. Or, heck, you might just end up loving it as much as I did.

And with that 2022 is wrapped up. Like I said, pretty good year for movies. So good in fact that movies that I loved like The Banshees of Inisherin, Bones and All, and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish just barely missed the cut. Any other year, there’s a good shot they’d be on there. But, yeah, strong competition. What do you think? What were your favorite movies of the year? Are you shocked by any of my picks? Are you thinking about checking one out you haven’t seen? If so, please reach out. I love to talk movies and these ones in particular I could talk about for hours.

Anyway, I’ve got to go watch another movie. Thanks for sticking around to the end. I would need to get my thoughts out either way, but it definitely helps to know that people care about my opinions for some reason! I’ll see you all in the next review. Peace!

Review: Missing

Missing (2023)

Directors: Nick Johnson and Will Merrick

Starring: Storm Reid, Joaquim de Almeida, Ken Leung, Amy Landecker, Daniel Henley, and Nia Long

Review: A few years ago, a new genre of found footage was invented. The “watch a computer monitor” genre for lack of a better phrase. Essentially, you are experiencing a screen recording of someone’s laptop, phone, whatever as they’re going through a movie worthy experience. Now, I’m not going to lie. This can be an effective storytelling device. Horror, especially, seems to work really well with both Host and Unfriended impressing me with their victims dying over Zoom calls. However, I was not super impressed by Searching a few years ago. I thought it was a good story, but didn’t really thrive in the “screen recording” genre with it having to cheat or bend their own rules on several occasions. Well, apparently, I was in the minority because now we have Missing, the spiritual sequel that has almost exactly the same feel (and problems) of that nearly forgotten movie.

So, here’s the thing about this genre of movie. We’re past the point where you get points just for telling an effective story from a monitor alone. It’s been done. It’s been done quite well. Now, you need to actually prove that this is the best way to tell this particular story. I’m not sure that Missing ever really does that. The intrigue behind the mystery at the center of this story is quite good. I was invested. Every twist and turn had me playing detective like a good true crime drama does. (A fact they’re very aware of and play around with throughout the flick.) But, I couldn’t help but think “why is this story being told this way?” And honestly the only answer I could come up with is “It’s a sequel to Searching.” That’s it. Not that it gave us any more insight to the characters or added more suspense or even made the story seem more believable. It was simply because they chose to focus on the genre first and let everything else fall to a distant second. And, personally, I think this would’ve been a way more effective story had they told it in the traditional way.

And you know what makes it even worse? The movie has to jump through what feels like unrealistic hoops to continue the screen recording premise. For example, in able to get the actress’s reactions to what’s going on around her, her webcam is constantly on. Not only when she’s on FaceTime or WhatsApp. No constantly. Even when she’s just doing something like creating a Spotify playlist. Now, I’ll admit that I might have a semi-dated relationship with technology at this point. But… no one does that, right? You have it open if/when it needs to be and then close it immediately after. There’s no reason to have your face up on your screen 24/7. And, without going into spoilers, the ridiculousness of them having footage of the situation increases tenfold in the final act. Are there ways around this? Yeah. Other genre movies have taken care of this issue nicely by either having never ending calls or having the characters livestream. Both realistic alternatives to her just having her camera open for no reason. On top of that, there are some things that she does here that technology just doesn’t do. For example, she accesses the backlog of a tourist trap live stream. I’m pretty sure most (if not all) websites like that just have live feed and that’s pretty much it. Again, maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think I am though.

Overall, I do think I enjoyed Missing more than I disliked it. Again, the plot was really, really good with a ton of twists and turns I never would’ve seen coming. However, I just kept being pulled out of it by the format and the unnatural feel of a lot of the screen activity. As I said, I probably would’ve preferred if this was just a straight, normal crime thriller instead of a found footage one. It would’ve allowed for more range and they wouldn’t have had to cheat as often to tell their story. But… then it wouldn’t really be a sequel to Searching and, really, that’s the whole reason Missing exists in the first place so…

TL;DR: Missing features a really good, compelling true crime drama in a format that hinders it’s storytelling more than it helps.

Score: 6/10 (Ok)

Review: Plane

Plane (2023)

Director: Jean-Francois Richet

Starring: Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Yoson An, and Tony Goldwyn

Review: Let’s take bets. In six months, will I remember that I saw this movie? Because I honestly don’t think I will. There is absolutely nothing about this that makes it stick out in any way. Heck, even the title is kind of… plain. Get it? Like Plane? But seriously, this is about as run-of-the-mill as you can get.

First things first, there is nothing in Plane that you haven’t seen a million times before. The plot goes pretty much exactly where you think it will. The plane loads up. A convict who everyone judges is among the passengers. The plane goes into a storm. They crash land. The passengers are taken hostage. The captain and the convict save everyone. The end. It’s Die Hard. It’s Con Air. It’s London Has Fallen. It’s every action movie you’ve ever seen combined into one uninspired flick. Now, am I saying it’s unwatchable? No. Honestly, the time kind of went relatively fast. I didn’t enjoy myself but I didn’t actively hate watching it either. The action is decent. The plot, while familiar, is entertaining enough. And the runtime is just about where it should be. It’s perfectly serviceable and, if that’s all you’re looking for, you’ll have a decent experience with Plane. This is a Sunday afternoon cable network movie. In one ear and out the other. A perfectly decent way to spend two hours.

But, that also comes with a tad bit of disappointment. Because this movie really lacks any sort of depth. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie. Everything and everyone is one-dimensional here. I was really invested in the opening act. As they were loading the plane, I was making sure to catch little character moments and interactions. Hoping we’d get to know these characters really well by the end. Spoiler: we don’t. They’re all just helpless, personality-less hostages. There aren’t many of them. It would’ve been easy for a writer to spend a couple minutes developing each one and their feelings towards being caught in such a harrowing moment. But no. You get to know them as well as you would any random passenger on your next flight. Just their face, a mention of their name, and maybe some surface-level traits. That’s it. But, what’s even worse is that it’s the same for the leads. They are also stiff, undeveloped characters. Even Mike Cotler’s convict character doesn’t get a whole lot of backstory. We know that he was military and then killed someone 15 years ago. Why? Who? How does he feel about it? Is he guilty? None of that comes up. I mean… how do you have such a good setup for character development and then squander it? It’s crazy.

But, like I said, despite its flaws Plane is surprisingly watchable. I was surprised at how decent of an experience I had. I never once got bored or annoyed. It was just… a movie. And I just… watched it. And it kinda sorta kept me entertained. It’s no masterpiece. Heck, I wouldn’t even say it was good. But I don’t really feel like shitting on it either. It just is what it is. And this review is probably all the impression it’s going to leave on me. So… is it a recommendation? No. But its not really an anti-recommendation either. Just a slight shrug.

TL;DR: Plane is an uninspired, one-dimensional action film that is almost guaranteed not to leave a lasting impression, but it is surprisingly decent.

Score: 6/10 (Ok)

Review: M3GAN

M3GAN (2022)

Director: Gerard Johnstone

Starring: Allison Williams, Jenna Davis, and Violet McGraw

Review: January is not supposed to be a good month for movies. Anyone who keeps track of movie release dates and box office numbers knows that the first month of the year is where studios dump their weakest films. Movies that otherwise would have almost no shot of becoming finically or critically successful. And that’s what makes M3GAN such a welcome surprise. It’s not only watchable. It’s borderline an enjoyable experience. I went in with the lowest of low expectations and walked out with a bit of a smile on my face. Is it going to make anyone’s top 10 list by December/January of next year? No. But it’s still a quite enjoyable experience.

In my mind, that all comes down to the character of M3GAN. I don’t want to hype her up too much, but I could definitely see her becoming the next big horror icon. I’m talking Halloween costumes, Hot Topic merch, a role in Dead by Daylight, the whole nine yards. She is absolutely the type of character I can see people flocking to. First of all, she’s definitely creepy. The scenes of her glaring at her potential victims from across the room never failed to send a bit of a shiver down my spine. But, also, she’s sort of adorable. It’s hard not to root for her when she busts out into a solo rendition of Bulletproof or does the equivalent of a TikTok dance will chasing down her prey. Not to mention, she’s got some valid points. It’s one of those circumstances where you’ll find yourself agreeing with the villain on more occasions than you’re really comfortable with. Yes, M3GAN herself is an absolute hit. If Universal/Blumhouse were smart, which I know they are, we’ll be seeing a lot more of this character in the near future and I can’t wait.

But, as we all know, a good horror villain doesn’t necessarily mean the movie itself is going to be decent. If that were the case, every Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street would be massive hits. No, you’ve got to also have a compelling story with sympathetic heroes. And M3GAN definitely has that too. Allison Williams does such a wonderful job playing the career obsessed aunt forced into the awkward position of raising her recently orphaned niece. It’s a story we’ve seen before, but it’s played out so well here that I didn’t really mind. The story then leads into lessons about grief and how we use technology to drown out our emotions. You legitimately get so wrapped up into their relationship that the biggest gasp I let out was from one of their arguments and not from the killer doll running around. It’s beautiful. It’s heartbreaking. And, it’s the icing on the cake that makes this movie one worth recommending.

Now, of course, I can’t let this review end without bringing up a few of my surprisingly minor criticisms. One, I know it’s become a bit of a joke within the community. Heck, M3GAN and he are basically in a Twitter war right now. But… this movie owes a lot to Child’s Play. Or more specifically the reboot that no one saw or really talks about. That movie also dealt not only with a killer doll, but our (and our children’s) relationship with artificial intelligent. In a way, M3GAN kinda proved my theory that the worst part of that movie was the fact that it was called Child Play. If it had been it’s own independent entity, I think it would’ve done a lot better. At the end of the day, it’s really not that important though. MEGAN is a better movie. A better killer (than that version of Chucky at least). And definitely more fun. But, I still thought it was worth noting.

My only other criticism is that the movie felt a bit rushed. It only has an hour and 40 minute runtime and I could’ve easily gone for another 20 minutes of M3GAN mayhem. It feels like we’re just getting warmed up and then it’s over. And, honestly, the kills are sorta on the weak side. Maybe they’re saving the “goods” for the sequels, but I would’ve loved to see a bit more here.

Overall, not a bad movie experience though. I’d definitely recommend checking it out if the idea of a silly, Gen-Z TikTok dancing doll sounds appealing to you. Personally, I thought it was a lot of fun. I just wish there was a little more meat on the bones. If there was, I’d be shouting about this from the rooftops. For now, we’ve got to settle for it just being good though. And, for the first movie of the year, good is a pretty good place to start.

TLDR: M3GAN may not be all that groundbreaking, but it is a good time at the theater and a solid introduction to a possible new slasher icon.

Score: 7/10 (Good)

Review: Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

Director: Taika Waititi

Writers: Taika Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, and Natalie Portman

Review: Do I really need to preface this review with my love for the MCU? I know that I usually start my reviews off with a little bit of a preamble as to where I’m coming from, but it really feels unnessecary here. After all, there have been 28 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before this, and I have enjoyed, if not loved, all of them. Everyone who is even remotely aware of my movie taste should know that I am a fan of the franchise. I also quite like Taika Waititi, so it’s not really a matter of whether or not I liked this movie. It’s more how much did I like it. And, unsurprisingly, the answer is quite a bit.

Ok, so what I’m about to say might sound a bit contradictory to my intro and maybe a tad blasphemous, but I promise it’s all out of love still. Despite my love for both Taika Waititi and Thor, Ragnarok has never really been my favorite MCU movie. While I do really enjoy it for what it is, I never thought it took itself seriously enough. It’s one of the few movies in the franchise that I can admit gets a tad too quipy at times. I mean… I still would probably rank it in the top fourth or so movies I’ve ever seen. However, the lack of emotional depth keeps it distanced from the highs of say Endgame and Infinity War. I’m only bringing it up because I honestly think Love and Thunder takes itself much more seriously. I went into it expecting another straight comedy and ended up getting pretty emotional. There are a couple of sequences in here that explore what it means to be a hero and dig deep into the characters’ psyches. While I never actually cried, I got a lot closer than I did during even the most emotional sequences of Ragnarok. And, perhaps most impressively, I think Waititi did so without sacrificing any of his quirky sense of humor. Personally, I think we’re just watching him grow as a director. Before Ragnarok, he was best known for What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Both are terrific movies, but definitely firmly in the comedy camp. Between these, he did Jojo Rabbit, which while lighthearted and fun covered a much more serious topic in the Holocaust. It’s honestly the perfect balance between emotional and downright hilarious. Now, am I saying that Love and Thunder is as good? No. But, I think it shows that he’s grown quite a bit as a filmmaker between the third and fourth Thor movies.

Likewise, I think this movie has some of the coolest action sequences in the entire MCU. They all just had such kinetic energy that was so much fun to watch. Between the two Thors, Valkyrie, and Korg’s unique fighting skills, there was always something exciting to concentrate on. On top of that, the way Waititi chose to film them was immensely visually appealing. I won’t get into detail since I don’t want to spoil anything, but there were two sequences in particular that I think will forever stand out among the sea of MCU fight scenes. In the first, they’re all fighting creatures who bleed gold. Apparently, that was enough to make both the censors and Disney willing to go with it because that really really gave Waititi the chance to get graphic. There is more bloodshed in this single scene than in the entire Deadpool franchise combined. You just don’t notice because it’s not the blood we’re used to seeing. But, the gold also makes it visually stunning with one shot in particular of Valkyrie basking in the glory of battle forever now etched in my mind. The second sequence is all over the trailers, but still equally impressive. They go to a world that almost completely lacks color except for the glow from their weapons. What follows is an extremely well-choreographed, visually interesting, emotional, desperate battle that was quite frankly brilliant. Personally, I think it would’ve been cooler to integrate some more of The Island of Silence into it and have the fight be dialogue-free as well, but that’s less of a criticism than a suggestion. Overall, I was extremely happy with all of the action in this movie, especially those two sequences.

And, of course, I can’t in good faith write up a review for Thor: Love and Thunder without praising the amazing cast. Everyone knows by now how great Chris Hemsworth is at playing Thor, but it’s still worth mentioning. Likewise, Tessa Thompson is so effortlessly cool as Valkyrie. I love what she brings to that character. However, I mostly want to talk about the two “new” scene stealers. I say “new” because technically Natalie Portman is an MCU veteran, having joined the franchise when Hemsworth did back in 2011. However, this is definitely a fresh take on Jane Foster. Through circumstances that the trailers have left quiet so I will too, she now has taken up the identity of the Mighty Thor and, holy crap, does Portman shine in this role. She’s just got so much charisma that it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off of her. Plus, she brings a level of freshness, inexperience, and naivety that I feel the franchise hasn’t had since it introduced Spider-Man more than half a decade ago. And, speaking of things this franchise desperately needed, Christian Bale is absolutely terrifying as Gor, the God Butcher. No joke, he might be the scariest villain in the history of comic book movies. He’s got all of the unpredictability of Joker, but with the intensity of Patrick Bateman behind him. There is one scene where he’s interacting with children that felt like a scene out of It, not a Thor movie. And that’s just one scene in a whole movie of being absolutely bone-chilling. I know Christian Bale will always be remembered as Batman, but, honestly, this performance is as good, if not better. Easily one of my Top 3 MCU villains of all time.

As I’ve said, I really enjoyed Love and Thunder. I thought it was an excellent way to spend two hours. However, I do think it feels like it was spinning its wheels a few times. Towards the end of the movie, I couldn’t help but think “that’s it? Really?” It’s weird to say in a movie where the villain literally was murdering gods, but this felt extremely low stakes. Like, if this movie hadn’t happened, I don’t know that the universe or even the character of Thor would be that different. In a saga that’s constantly about character development and/or setting up the next big adventure, this one felt a bit adrift. It’s not like it didn’t have a story to tell. It definitely did. It just felt like it was missing that forward momentum. Not every movie needs to be a universe-shattering, Infinity War-style event, but it should at least rock the main character’s world. And I, personally, don’t feel like this one did.

Overall though, Thor: Love and Thunder was an absolute delight. I loved so much about this movie that the stakes feeling moderately low wasn’t that big of a deal. After all, it was another MCU movie that delivered on fun characters, amazing action scenes, and a healthy amount of laughs. What more could I want? As far as I’m concerned, this makes 29/29 for delivering on that promise.

TL;DR: Thor: Love and Thunder is another great entry into the MCU canon, bringing a healthy dose of Taika Waititi’s humor and some of the franchise’s coolest action scenes to date.

Score: 8/10 (Great)

Review: Elvis

Elvis (2022)

Director: Baz Luhrman

Writers: Baz Luhrman, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, and Jeremy Doner

Starring: Austin Butler and Tom Hanks‘

Review: Music biopics are all the rage right now. After the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, studios are just pumping these suckers out. Everyone who’s anyone is getting one. From Aretha Franklin to Motley Crue getting their time in the spotlight. So, of course, it was time for Elvis to get involved. But, does his biopic live up to the King of Rock’s reputation or is it worse than a peanut butter and banana sandwich? Well, the answer is somewhere in between, as there were parts that I really, really enjoyed and some that left me completely flabbergasted.

Let’s start off with the good, shall we? Austin Butler absolutely smashes it as Elvis Presley. His mannerisms. His looks. His voice. All of it was spot on. So much so that before the credits roll it switches to a real taping of actual Elvis and it took me a second to realize they’d made the switch. He just embodied the role in ways I don’t know that I’ve seen in a biopic, especially recently. And he brought a ton of realism and heartbreak to a character that’s easy to see as larger than life. I’ve heard a lot of these stories before, but I never really made the connection that there was an actual person behind them. Butler made it easy with his excellent performance, which will probably forever change the way I look at one of the most influential people of all-time.

Second, the visuals are fantastic. If you’ve seen any of Luhrman’s work, you know that he’s a very flashy director. And, of course, that style naturally fits Elvis Presley’s life story. I mean… just look at the guy. Glitz and glimmer were kind of his thing. But, this also leads to some really interesting storytelling decisions. In a sea of boring, static biopics, it’s great to see one take so many stylistic risks. For example, instead of just showing us the front page of the newspaper like we’ve seen a thousand times before, Luhrman chose to film what the photograph would’ve been of with the rest of the paper as a frame. It really helps bring the history to life. Plus, it really, really sells the 1950s-1970s Rock and Roll scene with the “you had to be there” feel to it. And don’t even get me started on how pretty it makes Las Vegas look. Overall, it just makes the whole movie feel worth it, instead of just another retelling of the same old “rags to riches to rags” musician story we’ve heard before.

Like I said though, I don’t think I can completely recommend this movie though. For one, Tom Hanks’ character just does not work here. I’m not sure what, exactly feels so off but it’s definitely something. Maybe it’s the accent he put on or the fifteen pounds of prosthetics. Or the fact that we’re simply not used to seeing Hanks play a villainous character like this. But, if I had to pick my least favorite part, it would be making him the narrator of the entire story. Or, at least, how they portrayed that. Instead of just having him voiceover the flashbacks or do the thing where an old version is telling the story from a chair, they have him hallucinating in a nightmarish, overly CGI casino. Mixed with flashes of his face and rapid cuts to Elvis’ childhood. It all just looks/feels very fake and over dramatic. Plus, it’s honestly extremely discomforting and reminds me of the scenes of Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort infiltrating Harry’s mind. And, I definitely feel bad for Tom Hanks. There’s no way any of that could’ve worked and he did his best.

Lastly, this movie has the most intense pacing issues I’ve ever seen. The first half is an absolute blur with the average scene lasting less than five minutes. I was almost afraid to blink in the fear that I’d miss something important. I very often say that it sometimes feels like “based on a true story” movies are just recapping Wikipedia pages and you could get the same experience out of reading those. But, in this case, even the fastest reader wouldn’t be able to skim Presley’s important life events quicker than the first half of this movie. You barely get an opportunity to feel emotion before it’s on to the next thing. I’ve never seen a character’s rise and fall presented so rapidly. Luckily, it does slow down at the end. So, to me, it feels obvious that those final years are the ones Luhrman really wanted to concentrate on. And, it’s a good spot to spend a lot of time, because those years are as fascinating as they are heartbreaking. But, I wonder if it was worth the Sparknotes version of the rest of his life. Either skip to the end where you clearly wanted the focus to be or even out the pacing a bit. Because, as it is, this movie is wildly disorienting.

Overall, I do think the good things in Elvis outweigh the bad. Especially since the movie captures the feel of the rockstar so well. I just wish it’d flowed a little better. As it stands, it feels like Tom Hanks is the main character, briefly recapping us on the early half of Elvis’ life to get to where he’s more important. But, considering he’s not very good and Austin Butler is fantastic, I wish it had been a wee bit more traditional by having us just follow Elvis’ story. Either that or just focus on the latter half where the movie obviously wants to be anyway. Oh well, I applaud them for taking risks. Because it definitely didn’t feel like just another run of the mill biopic, which is definitely great since Elvis was far from run of the mill.

TL;DR: Pacing issues and a rare bad Tom Hanks role keep Elvis from ever being the must-see Austin Butler‘s performance and the unique visuals deserve.

Score: 6.5 (Watchable)

Review: Lightyear

Lightyear (2022)

Director: Angus MacLane

Writers: Jason Headley, Angus MacLane, , and Matthew Aldrich

Starring: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Efren Ramirez, and Isiah Whitlock Jr

Review: “In 1995, a boy named Andy got a toy based off of his favorite movie. This is that movie.” Not only has that been the crux of the advertising campaign for Lightyear, it’s literally the first thing you see on screen as you sit down to watch it. Disney/Pixar wants you to know with 100% certainty that this is not a reboot and/or remake of anything you’ve seen thus far. It’s a movie that exists within that universe. So, if you’re going into it with negative pre-conceived notions based on your love of Toy Story, leave those at the door. Imagine you are watching a movie that Andy has told you repeatedly is his favorite and I guarantee you’ll have a good time.

Because here’s the thing. Andy’s got good taste. This is a really fun science fiction movie. It’s got a terrific original story that sometimes feels like Star Wars or Star Trek, but just as often goes into Interstellar or 2001 territory. And, it’s not afraid to get philosophical, often contemplating what’s the point of rescuing someone when they’re happy with the mistakes that have been made and what it means to be a hero. But, Lightyear also features really cool, fun, and visually interesting science-fiction battles that would definitely place it among a child’s favorite flicks. It’s beautifully animated too, especially the scenes where Buzz is flying solo through space. A couple of those scenes would make Kubrick drool.

And, of course, it’s got a killer cast of characters. Throughout the movie, I grew attached to each and every one of them. We get pretty much an entire backstory for the Hawthorne family that made my heart swoon. I cannot believe people would shun this movie over this character arc. The whole family was delightful and I’d almost be down for a movie just about them. Then, there’s Mo and Darby, who could’ve easily just been comic relief but brought a ton of heart. Of course, there’s Sox, who I expect to see a lot of merchandise for in the future. After all, he’s an adorable robot cat with a bit of an anxiety disorder. That’s practically pandering to us Disney adults. Then, of course, there’s the star of the show: Buzz Lightyear. And, as a Toy Story fan for my entire life I don’t say this lightly, this is the most I’ve ever liked Buzz Lightyear. This version of him is so likable and charming, it’s no wonder a toy based on this character would be Andy’s favorite. I absolutely adored getting to know the “real Buzz Lightyear.” Because though in may ways this is our first time meeting this character, he also feels intimately familiar. There are so many little personality quirks, actions, and sayings that are reminiscent of our one of our favorite toy buddies. It feels kind of like visiting a friend’s dad and really getting to know how they became the person they did. It’s fascinating and I loved getting to know a character we’ve known for thirty years that much better.

So, it’s obvious that I can see why this would’ve been Andy’s favorite movie growing up. But, unfortunately, it does have to be judged by our standards too. And, for Pixar, that’s an awfully high bar to surpass. Basically, what I’m saying is “does this meet the Pixar standard?” and that’s always a tough question to answer. I know a lot of people are claiming that this doesn’t live up to the Toy Story name and I definitely agree. Those are four fantastic movies with 1 and 3 being two of my favorites of all-time. And, of course, Pixar has produced other animated classics that are classics in their own right. This does not even belong in the same conversation. Because, other than one sequence reminiscent of Up, it lacks a lot of the raw emotion this studio is known to wring out of you. But, do I think every movie should be held to those standards? Absolutely not. And, like I said, this is a fantastic science fiction movie. I think it holds up on its own. If it were any other studio, people would be head over heels praising it. So, does it live up to the Pixar standards? Probably not. Is it still a fantastic piece of sci-fi adventure movie-making? Absolutely.

There also is one “twist” that I can’t really get into that kinda, sorta rubbed me the wrong way. Of course, I can’t say that it ruined anything for me because we’ve only seen the franchise from the outside, looking in. But, it does change the way you look at certain characters and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m also not sure the twist entirely made sense in the scope of the story, but I also could just be dumb and too blindsided to really understand the logic. It’s something I’ll have to judge more fairly on a rewatch. Either way, not a huge blow, but it did affect my feelings towards this movie negatively so I thought it was worth bringing up.

But, overall, I really enjoyed Lightyear. I think it served its purpose quite nicely. It’s a fun, original, science fiction movie that feels like it would compel a child to base his whole personality around it for a few years. Plus, it served as a really interesting deep-dive into the origins of one of my favorite Disney characters, ultimately making me feel more connected to him than ever. I’d say that’s a pretty big win. Now, do a Woody’s Roundup movie next, please.

TL;DR: Lightyear was Andy’s favorite movie growing up and the kid has good taste, because this movie is a fun, original, and visually pleasing science-fiction adventure flick that enriches the Toy Story universe in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Score: 7.5/10 (Really Good)

Review: Jurassic World: Dominion

Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Writers: Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow, and Derek Connolly

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neil, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, Omar Sy, and Campbell Scott

Review: Oh, the Jurassic Park franchise. How I wish you were only one movie. To semi-quote the first movie, “Your finance team was so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The first movie was perfection. Absolutely all around a blockbuster work of art. There is not a single dull or cringeworthy moment in that entire movie. I’ve watched it dozens of times at this point and it still holds my interest as if I’m watching it for the first time. Every other movie since then has gotten drastically worse. And, honestly, Dominion might be the lowest point yet. It’s definitely the one that has made me most angry. So, let’s pour one out for the franchise and get on with the complaining.

Ok, let’s start off with my biggest complaint of all. This is, without a doubt, an action franchise now. And that kinda sucks. The charm of the original (and, honestly, the original trilogy) was seeing normal people running away from dinosaurs. You could see yourself in the shoes of these characters. It was terrifying because it felt real. That changed back in 2015 when they added Chris Pratt to the equation. He was a badass. He wasn’t afraid of the dinos because he’d worked with them. And, for a while, it didn’t throw off the groove too much because there were still mostly normal people around him. Well, that doesn’t feel like it’s the case anymore. Because, now, it feels like everyone is a superhero. They’re all constantly doing stunts out of the Jason Bourne or Bond movies dodging these dinosaurs. It’s hard to feel any sense of dread when you know that these people can (somehow) outrun a velociraptor on foot! That and/or just wrestle them, with little more than a knife as support. I try my hardest to be courteous to those around me at the theater. I almost never make an audible sound. But, there was one moment in this movie that made me loudly say “are you fucking kidding me?” Out loud. For everyone around to hear. I couldn’t help it. It was a reflex to the stupidity I was seeing on screen. And, don’t even get me started on how cartoony all of the new characters in this movie were. Especially the villains. They didn’t feel like real people. Just caricatures. God. How far this franchise has fallen. It’s been a joke for years, but they might as well crossover with the Fast & Furious franchise at this point because I think they may have them out-dumbed.

And, speaking of dumb, do you remember the human cloning subplot of the last movie? Well, I hope you liked it. Because they double down on it in Dominion. Oh yeah. I thought maybe they’d have her in it, but stray away from talking about her origin. Nope. It’s a main focus of the movie. Oh, but don’t worry. They actually do explain the situation more thoroughly. And it gets 1000% worse. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but it’s legitimately terrible. There are moments in this movie that feel like they are taken from a SyFy original movie. The worst part though is that they don’t ever really explain how anything ACTUALLY WORKS. Remember Mr. DNA from the original and how simple he made the cloning technology sound. How, even though it was outlandish, it felt realistic because they explained it to you so thoroughly. This throws even more bonkers shit at you and just expects you to believe it. This franchise apparently has left the realm of science fiction and fully embraced a more fantasy/action narrative and I am not here for it.

Now, let’s talk about the original cast. A big part of the marketing was that Sam Neil, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum were back. This, obviously, was just to play on our nostalgia because I can not think of a logical in-universe reason for these characters to be here. They don’t have these characters do anything that any other character couldn’t have done. There’s nothing that takes advantage of their skill sets or, even, their strengths as actors. It feels almost like it’s exclusively for ticket sales. Like, they saw Star Wars, Spider-Man, Scream, and all of the other requels bringing make established characters and some executive said “Back up a pile of money to Jeff Goldblum’s house. Who cares if it makes sense story-wise? My wallet needs him there.” I must admit. It worked on me. I was very excited to see these people back on screen together. But, honestly, in practice, it didn’t feel nearly as special as I was expecting.

While I didn’t like Jurassic World: Dominion, at all really. I do understand why some people might. Especially those unfamiliar with the franchise. After all, it wasn’t lacking in spectacle. However, it’s all stuff we’ve seen before. New dinosaur that’s the “apex” predator terrorizing our humans until a final climatic battle with the original T-Rex? Check. Vehicle hanging off a cliff with killer animals all around. Check. Evil corporation that seems like they have the dinosaurs’ best interests at heart but will secretly turn out to be greedy bastards? Check. Flying dinos terrorizing aircraft? Yep. Saw that in Jurassic Park III. There were so many moments of deja vu. I understand that you could call these homages or call-backs but it felt more like “been there, done that” than anything else. If you thought The Force Awakens played it too safe, it’s got nothing on Dominion. It’s like Colin Trevorrow couldn’t decide what he wanted to do for this last entry, so he spent half the runtime remaking iconic scenes from the previous movies. I get why that wouldn’t be the worst thing for some, but to me it just felt safe and boring. After all, we’ve seen all of that stuff. Show us something new. Like the ice sequence! That was actually pretty cool if I’m being honest. Or Claire hiding under the water. That was neat too. But, honestly, there wasn’t nearly enough cool and/or new sequences to balance out the old and/or boring ones.

Overall, I cannot recommend Jurassic World: Dominion, as I kinda sorta hated it. Are there fun moments? Certainly. I listed a couple above. And, I’ll admit that a lot of the jokes actually had me laughing out loud. But, it’s just such a stupid movie. Nothing makes sense. Nothing feels fresh. And, honestly, it’s not even a tenth of the quality the franchise started off at. My friends asked me as we were leaving the theater if I thought this was the worst one. I honestly don’t know. Fallen Kingdom was pretty freaking stupid too. But, this is up there. If anyone were to ever ask me about getting into this series, I’d suggest the first one and maaaaybe the first World. And that’s it. Nothing else is worth watching. Sure. There are a couple of cool moments, but it’s not worth it to suffer through the rest of the movies. It’s just a shame. Because I really, really, really love that first movie. And I’d love to see more dinosaur movies of that quality. The franchise just hasn’t delivered though. And, Dominion is probably the furthest away from that original goal yet.

TL;DR: When at it’s best, Jurassic World: Dominion feels very “been there, done that” and, at it’s worst, feels like an infuriatingly dumb, low quality, action movie.

Score: 3/10 (Awful)

Review: Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Writers: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie, Peter Craig, and Justin Marks

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer

Review: Holy shit. I was not expecting to like this movie as much as I did. To be honest, I only like the original Top Gun. It’s definitely not one of my favorite movies of all-time. But, I respect it for the over-the-top, fun 80s movie that it is. So, I was never really sold on the idea of a sequel. It seemed less like an essential movie and more like a way to inflate Tom Cruise’s ego even more. That and, of course, fill the executives’ pocketbooks. But, boy, was I wrong. Because Top Gun: Maverick is a blast and potentially one of the best movies of the year.

It’s hard to know where to start with a movie like this. Normally, I immediately jump to my biggest takeaway of the movie. You know, the thing that you answer when someone asks how it was. “Oh, it was good. The performances were fantastic.” But, in this case, there is just so much good stuff here that it’s hard to pick a favorite.

But, seeing as this is Top Gun, I guess I’d better start at the air sequences. And, good god, these are some of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen on screen. First of all, the fact that they filmed inside actual fighter jets means everything to me. In this age of digital effects, it would’ve been so easy to just slap these actors in a room of green screens and go from there. But, nope. Actual fighter jets. I don’t know if it was Tom Cruise’s insistence to do real stunt work or if the studio actually made the right decision for once, but it works so well. Everything feels incredibly real and tense. There are actually times when this felt more like a documentary than a movie. I was on the edge of my seat actually worried for the characters in this movie. And, the sequences were so well shot that you never were confused as to who was doing what, where. Everything was perfectly laid out in front of you. All of that with super intense, rapid fight sequences? Yes please. It doesn’t hurt that they billed this mission as practically impossible. And, just when you thought they’ve shown you everything they possibly could, they’d inevitably ramp the action back up to 11 every time. Seriously, every time these characters were in the air, my jaw was on the ground. Easily some of the best action sequences in the history of cinema with the last half-hour or so being the new standard for aerial battles.

But, honestly, the stuff on the ground might’ve been just as impressive. I was here for the drama in this movie. And, man, did it bring it. Because as much as this movie is about high-flying spectacles, it’s equally about Maverick coming to terms with his past mistakes and putting them behind him to become a better man. Most notably, this involves reconciling with Goose’s son, Rooster. Rooster’s mad at Maverick not only because of his father’s death but also because Mav pulled his papers towards the beginning of his career. Maverick didn’t want Rooster making the same “mistakes” he and Goose made. But, when the military forces them to work together, they’ve got to overcome their differences. It’s a very interesting kinda estranged father-figure/son dynamic that leads to brilliant moments of really high drama, both on the ground and in the air.

But, that’s not even the half of it. We’ve also got Maverick trying to win back over a past lover that he screwed over when he was younger. Plus, we get a really emotionally moment with Val Kilmer’s Iceman. In all of the “requels” we’ve gotten in past years, this might be the best way to bring back a legacy character we’ve seen yet. His scenes were both heartbreaking and inspirational at the same time. And definitely one of the many moments that’ll stick with me when I think back on this movie. In these moments when Maverick is dealing with people his own age, especially, is when we see Tom Cruise’s acting really come into play. You can constantly see the regret and the anguish over his past actions. But, also, the twinkle in his eyes when he sees Jennifer Connelly’s character. I honestly think this might be one of Cruise’s best performances of his career. I hope he gets some recognition for it. Because he’d definitely deserve it.

So, basically, almost nothing but praise for Top Gun: Maverick so far. However, I do have to point something out that felt weird to me. This is the vaguest I’ve ever seen any movie be about who exactly the bad guy is. I mean… we get nothing. The planes are blank. The fighters where completely generic uniforms. And, everyone refers to them simply as “the enemy.” Did this really affect the movie all that much? No. But, it did constantly remind me that this is a multi-million dollar film that’s being made to profit around the world. It honestly is the only thing that made this feel less real. I understand that they have to pander to a lot of the markets we would see as “the enemy” too, but it just felt cheap. Like, they couldn’t even make up a rogue, generic, non-offensive, group of terrorists that everyone could root against. Someone like, I don’t know, Spectre or whoever the bad guys are in Cruise’s own Mission: Impossible franchise. Just saying. Not a big complaint, but one that did hurt in my suspension of disbelief a bit.

Overall though, I am a huge fan of Top Gun: Maverick. I am seriously overwhelmed with how much I enjoyed this movie. There is not a doubt in my mind that this is waaaaay better than the original and, potentially, one of the best militray themed movies of all-time. The flying sequences are just so freaking good. And, with the drama being just as high, yeah, I’m going to definitely recommend this one. Definitely see it in theaters too! Take your dad I’m sure he’ll like it. Actually, I might just see if my dad wants to go see this. Because I’d definitely sit through it again. Hold on. Let me go call my dad real quick.

TL;DR: Top Gun: Maverick, with amazing aerial sequences and some high drama, is not only better than the original but one of the best military themed movies of all-time.

Score: 9/10 (Amazing)