Review: Eternals

Eternals (2021)

Director: Chloe Zhao

Writers: Chloe Zhao, Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, and Kaz Firpo

Starring: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Laruen Ridloff, Barry Keoughan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harrington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie

Plot: The Eternals, a group of celestial beings sent to protect humanity, learn that their mission may not be quite what they thought it was.

Review: Listen, I get it.

Even as a semi-hardcore Marvel guy, my eyes want to glaze over as soon as you start talking about the Eternals. There are many times they’d show up in massive universe wide events, only for me to look them up and immediately get bored or forget everything that I read. It just all seems so pretentious. Power wise, they’re only about a step below being as over powered as the Justice League and, personality wise, they’re about as flavorful as a box of Wheaties. The marketing for this movie didn’t help either. While I respect her work, Chloe Zhao seemed like an oddball pick for Marvel and the cast, while full of big-ish names, didn’t really grab me as must see either. And, then, the trailers made the whole thing look like third rate Shakespeare. We never really got a sense of what this movie was about. It was just billed as the important, deep, new Marvel movie. All of that with a two and a half hour runtime. Honestly, going in, I warned my friends that it might be a tad boring. I was hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

Then, the movie opens with some text. Immediately, my mind wanted to check out. If those were the opening lines of a comic book, I’d probably give up and move onto the next. No one could possibly make me care about the Eternals… or so I thought.

Honestly, you have to kind of make a conscious effort to enjoy Eternals. It’s a lot. The plot is relatively dense with exposition, especially for a Marvel movie. They’re throwing almost a dozen new super characters at you, all with semi-ridiculous names. The tone is drastically different than most Marvel movies. I can definitely see how some might now enjoy it. However, after putting in that effort, I found it to be a really solid movie.

Just about everything that I assumed would be a problem for me faded away. The lore actually became very interesting and the characters really started to grow on me. Their pretentiousness really makes sense when you think of the fact that these characters are pretty much gods. They were created to watch over us and have for thousands of years. No wonder they act like they’re above us. Because they totally are. A lot of the joy comes out of watching these godlike figures integrate into every day society. Watch as they learn to enjoy all of the little things humanity has to offer. It’s basically what the first Thor movie was, but on a much larger scale. Imagine all of Asgard falling into New Mexico instead of just the thunder god. That’s pretty much Eternals.

And, while there are moments where you really feel that runtime, Eternals is honestly trying to do a lot. And mostly succeeding. Without spoilers, they’ve got to introduce all 11 or so characters, set up their original mission, have a twist where everything is not quite as it seems, then have inter-group drama over that, and finally have the whole big superhero climax. They could’ve easily split this into two parts ala Dune, because it’s pretty dang close to as dense. Heck, do you know how long it took before the MCU had 11 superheroes in it? At least seven or eight movies. Now they’re introducing 11 at the same time? But, as I’ve said, I think it works. With the exception of one or two, I feel like I knew these characters pretty well by the end of the movie. I knew what they wanted in this world and understood why each of them would make the decisions they did. The greatest strength of the MCU is their character work and I’d say that’s very much on display in Eternals as well.

I feel like I also owe Chloe Zhao an apology. Because she ended up being kind of the perfect choice for this movie. Some of the visuals in this movie are jaw dropping. Eternals is all about scale and Zhao did a terrific job of making this FEEL epic. It feels right up there with Dune and The Lord of the Rings in terms of big, important story telling from the visuals alone. It’s a lot like how they got Kenneth Branagh to direct the first Thor movie because of his Shakespearean roots. However, this time they had enough fate to just let Zhao make her movie and not worry about it being a “Marvel movie.” Because this does feel very much like one of her movies. If you just went through her filmography without knowing this was a franchise flick, it wouldn’t stand out too much. It seems like the next step from Nomadland but with a big budget and science fiction elements. Heck, there were a few times that I even forgot I was watching something from the MCU. I’d just be wrapped up in a movie that felt like an original science fiction flick when they’d mention Thanos and I’d go “Oh yeah. That’s right. He exists in this universe.” In a saga as self-referential as this, it was refreshing for something to just feel original. I’ve never bought into the “all Marvel movies are the same” argument before, but I definitely don’t want to hear it after Eternals.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Eternals. It’s a lot crammed into one movie, but I think it works as long as you give it a fair shot. I’m glad that Marvel is willing to take risks like this and tackle some of their lesser known properties with big budget, different feeling movies. I don’t think this is a bad movie. And, honestly, I don’t even think it’s one of Marvel’s worst. Personally, they haven’t made a movie that I’ve disliked yet. I’m still very much on board wherever the future takes this franchise. And, if that future happens to be Eternals 2, count me in.

Score: 7/10 (Good)

Review: The Addams Family 2

The Addams Family 2 (2021)

Director: Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon

Writers: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Ben Queen, and Susanna Fogel

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Kroll, Javon Walton, Wallace Shawn, Wayne Knight, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, and Bill Hader

Plot: When Wednesday starts to doubt whether or not she’s really an Addams, Gomez distracts the family with a cross country road trip.

Review: In a weird, unplanned bit of theming for this weekend’s releases, I feel almost exactly the same about The Addams Family 2 as I did Venom 2. It’s a sequel to a movie I avoided for years, but then finally gave in to have it exceed expectations. Then, I enjoyed the sequel just about as much as the original because it gave me more of the same. The difference here though is that I actually liked The Addams Family 2 a little less than it’s predecessor instead of a little more.

Honestly, I’m pretty in the middle when it comes to this Addams Family franchise. I do not think they’re nearly as good as the previous reboot from my childhood. I wish they were a bit darker in their sense of humor and the animation looks a tad cheap. However, they’re not nearly as bad as they could be either. It still feels very much like The Addams Family, which is more than I can say for other reboots like Peter Rabbit and The Smurfs. If you’re a fan of the original series, there’s at least a decent chance that you’ll enjoy these. They’re not the funniest movies, but they do play mostly to the same drum as previous interpretations. In a couple of years, you’ll be able to reference The Addams Family to kids that grew up on this and overall be talking about the same source material. That’s kind of unusual in today’s market.

But, this one does make a bit of a turn in the third act. There are a few moments in the climax that felt straight out of a different franchise. Like you’d have the characters in Despicable Me in this kind of predicament, not the Addams Family. I understand how they got there, but it’s just a tad too grand and adventurous for our favorite creepy and kooky family to be mixed up in. So, that takes this one down a notch slightly. I don’t think it’s enough to warn fans of the franchise to stay away, but it’s definitely worth mentioning.

Overall, I still felt very much the same about The Addams Family 2 as I did the first. I’m not upset that I watched it, but I don’t think I would again. I wasn’t bored, but I wouldn’t say I had a good time either. It’s just a very ok movie that’s only impressive because it could’ve been so much worse. And, as sad as it sounds, that’s kind of something to celebrate.

Score: 6/10 (Okay)

Review: Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

Director: Andy Serkis

Writers: Kelly Marcel and Tom Hardy

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

Plot: Venom is thrusted in superhero mode once a serial killer gains control of a symbiote of his own.

Review: Let me first say that, if I had it my way, I would not be watching any of Sony’s Spider-Man “spinoffs.” I think they’re cheap knockoffs of the established MCU and are just keeping these characters out of the reach of Marvel, where they can truly shine with the company that knows these characters best. But, I’ve always felt like me not giving in to see these movies was kind of cutting into my credibility a little. After all, how can I be THE Marvel guy… heck, the Spider-Man guy without at least giving these a shot? So, I finally did this week. And the first Venom, honestly, wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece in any way, but it was entertaining and exceeded my low expectations. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is very much in the same boat. It’s not high art, but, man, I can’t help but enjoy it just a little bit.

The main thing you need to know about Venom: Let There Be Carnage is that it is incredibly dumb. Like the 1990s comics it took inspiration from, it’s “extreme” and “edgy” and more than a little silly. Now, honestly, even as a Spider-Man guy, I could never quite get into this era of comic books. It’s just not my thing. The symbiote stuff doesn’t really impress me all that much. However, it’s obvious to me that Tom Hardy and Andy Serkis are massive fans of those original comics. As such, they are completely loyal to the tone of the source material. It’s portrayed with just the right level of playfulness that you know they know it’s ridiculous. But, that’s kind of what makes it great. After all, who doesn’t want to see a homicidal maniac with an alien attached bust his mutant girlfriend out of prison so they can get married while guests are held hostage and forced to watch? It’s all in good fun. And, while incredibly stupid, it’s hard not to crack a smile and laugh along with them.

Meanwhile, we get to see the real heart of the movie, Eddie and Venom’s relationship, really blossom. Andy Serkis has said that he considers this movie a love story between the two and I 100% get where he’s coming from. While, obviously, there’s no real romance, this is a few simple edits away from being your typical romantic comedy. The two bicker, break up, find out who they really are as individuals, and then learn they are better together than they ever would be apart. It’s a very interesting direction to take the story that I feel mostly pays off. Though, seeing Venom in his “strong, independent symbiote who don’t need no man” phase will never not be jarring.

So, overall, I enjoyed Venom: Let There Be Carnage about as much as I did the first Venom. It’s a very mixed bag. I like that this one took more risks than the first, even if not all of them paid off. It’s incredibly dumb, but, then again, so are the comics its based on. Plus, it’s good to see just a batshit bonkers superhero movie that’s so far off the rails from what we normally get. We haven’t gotten something this unpolished and gloriously dumb from Marvel since the pre-MCU days of Ghost Rider and X-Men Origins Wolverine. In fact, I believe that, if this had come out during that era, it’d be heralded as a classic. Unfortunately, the world has moved on a bit. And, while definitely fun, it’s hard to say that this movie is actually good.

But, man, that post credits scene had me hyped for this franchise’s future!

Score: 6.5/10 (Okay)

Review: Respect

Respect (2021)

Director: Liesl Tommy

Writers: Tracey Scott Wilson and Callie Khouri

Starring: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Hailey Kilgore, Skye Dakota Turner, Tate Donovan, and Mary J. Blige

Plot: A retelling of the life of iconic soul singer Aretha Franklin.

Review: You know? I like Aretha Franklin as much as the next person. She’s one of the most talented individuals to ever walk the planet. And I respect (pun not intended) the struggles she went through in life. However, I’m not sure there’s quite enough here for her to be given her own movie. Respect (the movie) feels very forced. It doesn’t feel like anyone’s passion project. Like someone was sitting around and thought “Yeah. Aretha Franklin should probably have a movie” but didn’t put a lot of effort into it beyond that.

Honestly, Aretha Franklin did not live a boring life. If someone just sat you down and told you this story, you’d probably be fascinated. There’s a lot of intrigue including several abusers, her finding her voice, finally standing up for herself, the joy of gaining a following, the pain and suffering that comes with that following, alcoholism, depression, etc., etc. It’s not a dull adventure. The problem is that seemingly EVERY rock star goes through the same tribulations. We’ve seen it all before. Maybe not Ms. Franklin’s version, sure, but her story sadly isn’t that far removed from everyone else’s. You could go through the entire list of inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I’m sure they could all give you similar stories. So, unfortunately, a good life story isn’t going to cut it in the music biopic game now. The field is just too crowded. You’ve got to do something new and interesting with the direction and/or the storytelling. That’s why I enjoyed Rocketman so much. It felt like a work of art first and a biopic second. The musical angle, the cinematography, the acting. It felt unique. Meanwhile, in it’s straightforward approach, I was very underwhelmed by Bohemian Rhapsody. It just felt like a quick adaptation of Queen’s Wikipedia page. Well, I’m saddened to say that Respect has even less flair than Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s about as vanilla, directing wise, as they come. Other than some great performances by the cast, you could easily convince me that this is a Lifetime original. It was very straightforward and very “been there, done that”.

I wouldn’t go as far as to call Respect a bad movie though. Even with being mostly unimpressed by it, I was rarely bored. Jennifer Hudson’s performance is very good, especially when she gets the chance to replicate Franklin’s iconic songs. Of course, the soundtrack is top notch. And a lot of the supporting cast was terrific too. Forrest Whitaker, especially, was great, playing out Aretha’s complicated relationship with her father. As I said too, the story itself isn’t boring either. It’s a decent enough tale that’ll keep you interested. It’s just when you compare it to every other rocker’s story that you start zoning out a bit. It also leaned a little heavy on the religion in the final act for my taste, but that’s just a personal preference thing. It pretty much boils down to if this is your first music biopic, I think you’ll like it a lot. If you’ve seen a ton like I have, this may feel more than a little cliché. Not bad. Just a little bland.

TL;DR: Respect is a tad bit vanilla and therefore has a hard time standing out in the sea of music biopics.

Score: 6/10 (Ok)

Review: Free Guy

Free Guy (2021)

Director: Shawn Levy

Writers: Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, and Taika Waititi

Plot: A NPC from a video game gains sentience when he meets the woman of his dreams.

Review: Ok. Let me be real with you. I honestly don’t know how to start this review. Actually, I barely even know how to write this review. Because, I don’t know what tone to take at all. I don’t want to be too negative, because Free Guy doesn’t deserve to be shat on in that way. It’s a charming enough summer blockbuster. But, if I walked in here praising it, that wouldn’t feel authentic either, because I didn’t think it was that good either. I’m definitely not on the 83% Rotten Tomatoes or 7.7 (!) IMDB hype train. Those guys need to settle down in my opinion. It’s a perfectly fine, dumb way to kill two hours on a summer evening. That’s about it.

My main criticism with Free Guy is that I just could not give two shits about the plot. I loved the concept of a NPC coming to life and the reason behind it and all of that. But, that’s more of a starting point and not the actual plot. There’s a whole storyline about a big evil video game company, some stolen code, and a quest to retrieve it to help a lawsuit that I just did not care about at all. And what’s worse is that they treat it like it’s the biggest deal in the world. There are clips from the outside world where everyone is invested in this story. Disney even pushed their weight around to get a Good Morning America cameo where they covered the story. Do you know how little the actual news cares about video games? The latest big story in games was the Blizzard harassment scandal and I guarantee that not one major news show covered anything about it. Gaming is so far down on their list of priorities it’s not even funny. But, I digress. The point is that even though I did care about these characters, even I couldn’t be bothered to root for them all that much. Let alone the entire world when it’s literally a video game character. There were also too many instances where I thought “This is literally The Lego Movie” or “That feels a tad Wreck-It Ralph-ish” for me to ever buy into this being all that original of a concept.

Yet, every time I was ready to completely write Free Guy off, I would be won back over by it’s charm. Because there’s no way you can sit through this movie without laughing and smiling most of the time. That’s what happens when you put such a delightful cast into such a pleasing scenario. Even when a lot of the jokes seemed to be trying way too hard (and, trust me, some do) they still got a chuckle out of me. These guys are just naturally funny and the movie takes advantage of that really well. Ryan Reynolds, especially, is at peak lovability here. This is definitely one of his better roles. I’d put it right below Deadpool and the completely underrated The Voices. Jodie Comer and Joe Keery also give completely adorable performances as the little indie developers going against the gigantic corporation. In fact, I’d say the entire cast does a terrific job (with the possible expectation of a slightly too over the top Taika Waititi). I liked all of these characters. I liked this world. I liked a lot of the jokes. I just wish they were all in a better movie.

So, overall, did I like Free Guy? I don’t know. I’m still very mixed on it. There were parts I loved and then parts I completely hated, leaving me with a sort of whatever feeling about the whole experience. But, I would say that I’d give it a recommendation. Because this movie is a good time and I seem to be one of the only people that had problems with it. I’d hate to be the one person standing in the way of other’s happiness. And, honestly, there’s part of me that thinks I might be a bit too harsh on this. I don’t know. As you can probably tell, I’m all over the place with Free Guy. I wish I had a better grasp on how I feel about it.

TL;DR: With a forgettable plot and charming cast, Free Guy is dumb, but it’s also dumb fun.

Score: 6/10 (Ok)

Review: The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Director: James Gunn

Writer: James Gunn

Starring: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, and Peter Capaldi

Plot: Task Force X is charged with investigating alien weaponry on a small South American island.

Review: All hail, James Gunn! He is the chosen one!

Ok, maybe that’s a bit too far. But, seriously, James Gunn is the best. In Guardians of the Galaxy, he took D-list characters and managed to turn them into some of the best known characters around. And he’s done it again with The Suicide Squad. Although, honestly, I think his task here may have been harder. As a comic book reader, I was at least vaguely aware of who the characters were before 2014. I knew they were the space team with the racoon and the tree. Plus, I had read comics with Gamora and Drax in them, even if they never stood out much. But, I had absolutely no idea who 90% of these characters are. I hesitate to even call these guys D-list. More like F or G. You’re telling me that Polka-Dot Man, who has appeared in 33 total issues, is going to be one of the standout characters of 2021? Really? Yes. Absolutely. And it works. It works incredibly well. Seriously, the dude has an insane talent for this stuff.

The main thing that’s got to be said about The Suicide Squad is how much fun it is. Because, boy, is this a blast! Both in the comedy sense and action-wise, I haven’t had this much fun with a movie in a long time. This is, without a doubt, one of the most violent movies I’ve ever seen. There is an insane amount of gore on display here. Within the first couple of minutes, we see quite a bit of brains splattered about and that’s just a teaser. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was pushing X in some of the MPAA member’s heads. Because, woof, it’s gory. But, personally, I love this kind of stuff. As long as it’s played up and fast paced, I tend to enjoy a good brutal action movie murder. If the action scenes in stuff like John Wick and Deadpool tickle your fancy, you’ll enjoy these too. I laughed my way through most of the fight scenes for just how over the top they were. But, of course, that’s not the only reason I was laughing. This movie is also legitimately one of the funniest movies to come out in years. Whether it’s the absurdity of the characters or just genuinely funny throw away lines, I couldn’t get over how hilarious the script was. I can’t remember the last time I laughed this much at the theater. It’s been a while for sure. Basically, The Suicide Squad is all the humor of Guardians of the Galaxy mixed with the violence from Kick-Ass, beautifully and frantically directed in ways that only James Gunn can.

But, wait, that’s not all this movie has even more to offer. Yes, as if being the most fun flick of the year wasn’t enough, there’s one more trick James Gunn has up his sleeve. The Suicide Squad also has an insane amount of heart. I could not believe how emotional this movie got at times. Each and every one of our main characters has an emotional time to shine. From Harley Quinn lamenting on her past to learning the tragic backstory of some of the other characters, I was not expecting to feel as attached to these characters as I did. I’m sure I could read all 94 issues that the original Ratcatcher appeared in and wouldn’t feel half as invested in him as I was his daughter in this two hour runtime. It’s crazy how good Gunn is at getting us attached to them. It’s like he reads comic books differently than the rest of us or something. I’d almost be interested in seeing what he would do with A-list characters but I don’t really think that’s his bag. He seems to have a real talent and determination to make us fall in love the outcasts with his mix of gruesome imagery and heartfelt moments. There’s no one out there making movies like he does. And The Suicide Squad is 1000% a James Gunn movie.

As you can probably tell, I really, really loved The Suicide Squad. I thought it had a whole lot going for and little to known against it. It’s my favorite DCEU movie by a country mile. It’s the first one I’ve had no real complaints about. It’s also probably my favorite movie of 2021 so far. There’s no way it’s falling out of the top two or three spaces by the end of the year. And, as of me typing this up, it’s honestly in contention for my favorite James Gunn movie. That’s saying a lot too, because I freaking love the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. This may be better though. I don’t know. I guess time will tell. Either way, it’s kind of perfect. I can’t wait to watch it again. And, honestly, it won’t be long until I do. So, yeah, I highly, highly recommend The Suicide Squad. Go have some fun with it. Enjoy some good ol’ fashioned comic violence. Fall in love with some D-list characters. Laugh your head off. Praise James Gunn.

TL;DR: James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is the perfect summer movie filled with hardcore violence, killer jokes, and some of the best characters the DCEU has offered thus far.

Score: 10/10 (Masterpiece)

Review: The Green Knight

The Green Knight (2021)

Director: David Lowery

Writer: David Lowery

Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, and Ralph Ineson

Plot: After accepting a challenge on Christmas Day, a knight must take a quest and fulfil his destiny the following year.

Review: I really struggled with wrapping my head around how I feel about The Green Knight. It’s not an easy movie to review. But, I think I found the perfect analogy to describe my experience with this movie. It’s like a tapestry. One you’d find in a museum. As you examine it, you’re blown away by the beautiful artistry on display. Then, as you scan the different figures, you can kind of start to piece together a story. You notice the brave knight, the lovely princess, a loyal companion, and the fearsome beast. And, while you never get the full story, you can more or less get the gist of what’s happening. However, more than anything you’re impressed with the craftmanship that went into such an elaborate piece of art.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about The Green Knight. I was in it for the beautiful way it told it’s story. Did I understand every detail? Not even close. But I was still sucked in by the majesty of the storytelling. The cinematography on display here was top notch. Every moment felt like it could be hung up in an old castle somewhere. And the way that camera moved through the space gave it a dreamlike quality that I really dug. Plus, even though I could never tell you what anything that took place on screen meant or, really, why it happened, I was still fascinated with every scenario this movie presented to me. It’s a real testament to the power of this movie that I was so glued to it. I often lose interest if something is too abstract and I’m sure some will see this movie as visuals without substance, but I was fascinated with this one. On the other hand, I’m sure smarter people than me will love this movie more than I ever could, because they’ll understand every metaphor and piece of symbolism. But, you’re here for my slightly smart, slightly dumb take on this. I felt like a little kid being told a fairy tale. I may not understand everything, but I felt the emotion. It’s different than how movies normally make me feel. I’ve never really had an experience quite like this one. And, honestly, I may take this journey a few more times. Because, at the very least, it’s unique.

So, do I recommend The Green Knight? I honestly have no idea. I think it’s worth giving a shot. But, I’d wait until it’s available for cheap and/or free. That way if you’re not vibing with it like I did, you can turn it off and not feel too much guilt. And, if you enjoy it, reach out. I’d love to talk about this movie with people because it is SO different. I feel it’s gonna bring in A TON of differing opinions and I, for one, can not wait to hear the discourse.

TL;DR: The Green Knight is fascinating and beautiful, whether I understood it or not.

Score: 8/10 (Great)

Review: Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise (2021)

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writers: Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, John Norville, and Josh Goldstein

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

Plot: A group of explorers go on an adventure down the Amazon river in search of a petal that could revolutionize medicine.

Review: In the Disney Parks, there are only two possible paths for attractions not based on existing, money making IP. You either become a huge blockbuster franchise yourself (Pirates of the Caribbean) or you bomb and an IP takes over your ride (Country Bears, now home to the Winnie the Pooh attraction in Disneyland). Basically, there are some huge shoes to fill. And now it’s Jungle Cruise’s turn to attempt the impossible and replicate the magic of the Pirates franchise. Does it succeed? Kinda. But, by trying to be so much like its successful predecessor, it also ends up falling just a tad short.

But, let’s start off with the stuff I did like about Jungle Cruise first, because my overall impression of this movie is quite good. First of all, I thought it really captivated the spirit of the attraction and all of Adventureland quite well. It often felt like those big, bold adventure films that they don’t really make anymore. The kind of stuff that Indiana Jones was paying tribute to. It’s just a whole lot of fun with it’s big action set pieces, determined characters, and beautiful, exotic locations. And, like the attraction, it’s very funny. There are, of course, a ton of puns: some you’ll recognize from the ride, others are brand new. And, the movie was very good at playing to our expectations for jungle adventure clichés. Whether it’s how the explorers interact with nature or our relations with native cultures, the movie was always very good at turning what we know on it’s head a bit.

Then, finally, I really liked the casting work done here. Everyone who’s ever been on the Jungle Cruise knows that your experience is only as good as your skipper. In that case, we’re in very good hands here because The Rock kills it. He’s one part Indiana Jones and one part Mysterio from Far From Home. He is a brave and talented skipper, but also bluffs a bit to make himself seem even more badass. But what really sells the character is Johnson’s tremendous amount of charisma. It’s almost impossible not to like the guy and this role more than any other really leans into that. In fact, I think this might be my favorite live action role he’s had to date. It just fits him like a glove. Emily Blunt was also put into a role that fit her perfectly. She’s more or less the actual Indiana Jones in this movie. She’s super smart, kind to those who deserve it, and a bit of a badass who’s willing to stand up to the patriarchy in charge of their adventuring guild. I would not be surprised if she’s listed among the strong female characters like Hermione and Black Widow within a couple years. And speaking of representation, this is the first time I think Disney has done an even decent job at LBGTQ+ representation. While the character is a bit of a stereotype and they never quite commit to his gayness, I still enjoyed Jack Whitehall’s character quite a bit. He was prim, proper and a little whiny but still able to hold his own when it mattered. So, like I said, maybe not the best still, but baby steps. Disney is getting there.

So, I was very much enjoying Jungle Cruise. I remember thinking things like “This is the best Indiana Jones movie we’ve had in years” and “This is almost as good as Pirates.” But, then, there was a bit of a shift. Towards the middle of the movie, they really start leaning into the formula that made the first Pirates of the Caribbean work and then drive the sequels into the ground. We get a band of villains who were cursed for their misdeeds and are now stuck doing the same thing for all of eternity. And to make things worse they’re lead by a CGI guy with snakes coming out of his face… not entirely different from Davy Jones. It feels very been there, done that. Especially when you realize they’re both based on Disney Parks attractions. It’s like they didn’t know how to make a plot so just leaned on what worked before. (Honest Trailers is going to have a field day with this. I can already tell.) But, it also takes away from the solid adventure story they were telling. The best adventure movies only hint at things like curses and ghosts. The more they lean into it, the worse the movie gets. The same goes here. Plus, the CGI on the villains just wasn’t believable at all. I wanted to really, really like this movie, but as it progressed it reminded me less of Indiana Jones 1-3 and more of Pirates of the Caribbean 2-5.

Oh, and while I thought the cast had great chemistry, I did not buy the love story for a second. It felt very forced. But maybe that’s just more of the been there, done that of it all.

I do recommend Jungle Cruise though. Overall, it’s a very fun movie. There are some bits and pieces that feel familiar and/or don’t quite work, but I think the stellar cast, humor, and sense of adventure more than make up for it. While I wouldn’t put it in the same boat (pun intended) as Pirates, I would say this is easily the second best movie based on a Disney ride. And if they made sequels or other ride based movies of this quality I wouldn’t be upset at all. Though I will be mildly upset if every one follows this same formula so closely.

TL;DR: Jungle Cruise is a slightly familiar adventure film with a fun cast and an infectious sense of adventure.

Score: 7/10 (Good)

Review: Snake Eyes

Snake Eyes (2021)

Director: Robert Schwentke

Writers: Evan Spilliotopoulos, Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse

Starring: Henry Golding, Andrew Koji, Ursula Corbero, Samara Weaving, and Iko Uwais

Plot: Snake Eyes accidentally joins a much bigger world when he agrees to steal a weapon for a Japanese gang.

Review: Honestly, this review should probably just be a Facebook post, because it’s going to be one of the shorter ones I’ve posted here. Why? I am not overexaggerating at all when I say that Snake Eyes left almost no impression on me whatsoever. Don’t get me wrong. I watched the whole thing. I paid attention. I tried to care. I could tell you exactly what happened and why. But, I can’t name a single moment or scene that evoked any emotion in me other than boredom. It was like a trip to the BMV or a church service. There’s nothing inherently bad about those things, but you’d also rather be doing something else. That’s how I felt the entire runtime of this movie. There’s nothing original or groundbreaking here. Heck, there’s barely even anything entertaining. It’s just… there. This is the type of movie where you walk out going “Yep. That was a movie.” Maybe if you’re into G.I. Joe it’ll elicit more of a reaction from you, but I may have touched one action figure one time and barely remember seeing the 2009 movie at the drive-in so I can’t attest to that. So, yeah, not really much of a recommendation from me. I was just bored the entire time.

Actually, I lied. One thing about Snake Eyes did impress me. Shoutout to Alec Hammond, the production designer. Your sets were the only thing that stood out to me. So, thanks for giving me at least something to look at. Anyway, that’s it. That’s all I liked. End of review.

TL;DR: Snake Eyes exists.

Score: 4/10 (Bad)

Review: Old

Old (2021)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Writer: M. Knight Shyamalan

Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre, Emberth Daviditz, and Emun Elliott

Plot: A couple of vacationing families get trapped on a mysterious beach that makes you age faster.

Review: M. Knight Shyamalan has pulled off an incredible feat with Old. The movie is about a mysterious beach that quickly ages you. Meanwhile, the movie itself aged me by about 10 years. Or at least it felt like it did. He’s made some god awful movies before, but, honestly, this might be one of his biggest bombs yet in my eyes. I think I’d rather watch The Happening again…

Frankly, I don’t know how balanced this review is going to be. Because I wholeheartedly hated this movie. Almost out of the gate. Like, within the first couple of lines, I was angry. Because those first few lines, where a family talks about how you should enjoy the time you have, exemplified some of my biggest problems with the movie. They’re overwritten as hell, immediately shoving the message of the movie down your throat in ways that real people don’t talk. And, worst of all, they’re extremely poorly acted. Seriously, if you had Siri recite those lines from your phone, they’d have more emotion in them. And neither of those things ever got any better.

I don’t know what was going on during the production of this movie honestly. I think it’s a good enough premise, but every decision that was made in telling this story seemed to be the wrong one. Personally, I put it all on Shyamalan. This reeks of his pretentiousness. As I said, it’s overwritten to hell. There’s no way you’re going to miss any plot points, because the characters over explain every minute detail. Oh, and don’t worry about symbolism either. Shyamalan will spell all of that out to you too, as if he’s writing Sparknotes for someone else’s work. Plus, this is his biggest acting role yet, so you never get the chance to forget that he’s the one telling you this story. He’s the master storyteller. All hail the expert storyteller. It’s not like his directing is any better though. There are often shots that seem to be on nothing in particular. As if it’s deep or artistic to not have the characters all the way in the frame. Plus the insane amount of closeups on his actors’ faces just not reacting at all. It’s like he saw Midsommar and said “I can do a bad version of that.” Speaking of his actors, not a single one of them is good here. They’re all incredibly flat the entire time. And. I. Just. Don’t. Get. It. Because I’ve seen these actors in other movies before and they’re wonderful. But here it’s like they’re robots who know how to speak but haven’t gotten the whole emotion thing down yet. It had to have been a creative choice by Shyamalan. There’s no other way I can make sense of it.

But, what truly baffles me is that this movie is divisive. There are people who actually like it. Heck, it’s at a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, I’m not one to tell someone their opinion on a movie is definitively wrong, but I don’t understand at all. There is almost nothing I liked about this movie, outside of it’s premise. (And even that is not fully executed on and tiptoes a bit on the “creepy but not in a good way” side in my opinion.) I hated it from the word go. The only time I started to enjoy myself was when I looked at it as a “so bad it’s good” Happening type of movie, but that didn’t last long. I’m definitely intrigued though. I want to talk to people about this movie. I want to understand why anyone would give this a good review. Is there something I’m missing? Is there something they’re missing? Am I being to harsh? I legitimately have no idea. And I want to hear about it. If you’ve seen the movie and liked it, let me know why. I’m actually interested in having a communication here. This movie just has me baffled.

Until then though, Old is not going to be a recommendation from me. I thought it failed on just about every level a movie can. It’s poorly written, acted, directed, the whole nine yards. And, if you’re looking for a scare, you probably won’t find it here. And, though I obviously won’t get into here, the twist is pretty weak. Maybe the weakest in Shyamalan’s catalogue. So, yeah, I hated this movie and it’s making me feel like a bitter old man.

TL;DR: In my opinion, M. Knight Shyamalan completely failed at making Old’s interesting concept into anything remotely watchable.

Score: 1/10 (Unbearable)