Here’s the thing about the Men in Black movies: none of them are really that good. None of them are bad, either, but they’re nothing particularly special. They’ve always been harmless summer blockbusters that were more concerned with being a comedic, visual treat than telling a particularly compelling story. The first three films always succeeded based on the chemistry of their stars – Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. And that was okay. Men in Black never needed to be some pinnacle of storytelling; they were just these enjoyable action movies. All of that remains true for Men in Black: International, the latest sequel/reboot in the Men in Black franchise. The film features a pretty basic, predictable plot, some enjoyable jokes, some serviceable action, and largely succeeds based on the chemistry of its two stars – Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. (Mild spoilers ahead.)
Men in Black: International (written by Art Macrum and Matt Holloway, directed by F. Gary Gray)
The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.
I love Aladdin. It’s probably my favorite of the “Disney Renaissance films” and so, naturally, I’d be pretty hesitant about any new adaptation of it. The Broadway version mostly ended up working out, though I haven’t actually managed to see it – just heard the soundtrack and seem some of the officially released footage. It seems fun enough, but, for obvious reasons, it could never match the sheer energy found within the original animated tale. The same, it turns out, rings true for this live-action remake of Aladdin. The energy of the original isn’t there, nor is the creativity – of the Broadway version or of the original version. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not a good one either. Mostly, it’s just a boring rehash of a beloved classic with a few new twists thrown in in a lame attempt to make it seem more distinct. (Some spoilers ahead!)
Aladdin (written by John August and Guy Ritchie and directed by Guy Ritchie)
Aladdin (Mena Massoud), street rat, frees a genie (Will Smith) from a lamp, granting all of his wishes and transforming himself into a charming prince in order to marry a beautiful princess, Jasmin (Naomi Scott). But soon, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), an evil sorcerer, becomes hell-bent on securing the lamp for his own sinister purposes.
I tend to enjoy superhero movies that are a bit darker. I like to actually get inside a hero’s head, especially those whose chief motivation to be heroic is borne out of some kind of PTSD. It’s one of the main reasons I adore Batman as much as I do. And it’s why I love some of the darker DC movies – even if, objectively, they’re not exactly well-written movies (Batman v Superman, Watchmen, etc.). So, naturally, Brightburn should be right up my alley. It takes one of my least favorite superheroes – Superman, disliked by me due to his eternal blandness – and puts a similar character in a scenario where he becomes evil as he learns of his superpowers instead of becoming a good guy. Brightburn is not a Superman movie, but it’s clearly inspired by the Superman story (alien baby crashes to earth, is adopted by parents who live on a farm, discovers his powers as he hits puberty, etc). Unfortunately, Brightburn is every bit as bland as most Superman stories are. (Spoilers ahead!)
Brightburn (Written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn and directed by David Yarovesky)
What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?
I’ll be totally honest – when I first heard that Warner Bros was making a live-action Pokémon movie based on some game that featured a talking Pikachu that moonlit as a detective, I was pretty skeptical. The subsequent announcement that Ryan Reynolds would be voicing the titular Detective Pikachu did intrigue me a bit, at least, but I still wasn’t sure such a thing could work. Then the first trailer hit and the CGI actually looked really good and the tone seemed to be a softer version of Reynolds’ Deadpool humor, so I was a lot closer to being sold on the idea. Having now seen the film, I can safely say that it’s exactly what you think a film with a talking Pikachu moonlighting as a detective and voiced by Ryan Reynolds would be: devilishly funny. But it’s also a pretty solid mystery and a really fun movie. (Mild spoilers follow)
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (written and directed by Rob Letterman)
The story begins when ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim (Justice Smith) to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds): a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City – a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world – they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.
Movies that dramatize the events of real crimes are always forced to walk a narrow tight-rope. They have to be careful not to gratuitously show too much of the real violence and potentially glorify real murders while also not focusing too much on the wrong aspects and showing too little of the crimes and accidentally make the real murderer too sympathetic/unfrightening. It’s a tight-rope that Netflix’s newest film, Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile, is forced to walk – and it doesn’t do a great job. It’s admirable at how little Ted Bundy’s (Zac Efron) real violence is shown, but it also does a poor job at really showing how terrible he was, instead choosing to ostensibly focus on his relationship with Liz Kendall (Lily Collins). However, it doesn’t do a particularly good job at establishing their relationship and actually developing either of them as characters within the narrative of a film. Instead of feeling like an actual movie, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile feels more like a Wikipedia article covering Bundy’s crimes and his various relationships. (Spoilers for the film follow!)
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (written by Michael Werwie and directed by Joe Berlinger)
Single mother Liz (Lily Collins) thinks she’s found the man of her dreams in Ted (Zac Efron). But their seemingly perfect life is turned upside down when Ted is arrested on suspected kidnapping charges, then linked to murders in multiple states. Adamant that he’s being framed, the former law student theatrically defends himself in America’s first nationally televised trial while Liz struggles to come to terms with the truth. Adapted from the nonfiction memoir by Elizabeth Kendall, EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE recounts how she was manipulated for years by a seemingly adoring boyfriend, yet future death row inmate, Ted Bundy. Directed and produced by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning Joe Berlinger.
I’m actually impressed at how much of a narrative mess this film is. Maybe I’m not the target audience for it. Maybe you have to really, really love the Marvel movies in order for this film to feel even a little bit satisfying on a narrative level. Or, maybe it’s just bad writing. This film is filled with so many out of character moments, lazy writing, and flagrant disregard for the twenty-some films that came before it. It’s convoluted, way too long, and ultimately disappointing, even if there are a few good moments. This review is going live on Saturday because it’s impossible to talk about this film without spoiling elements of it, so I wanted to give people a chance to see it first. With that said: WARNING: THERE WILL BE MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRETY OF THE FILM AHEAD. – because I’ve got some major problems with all of the movie.
Avengers: Endgame (written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo)
The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured the Avengers ranks compels the remaining Avengers to take one final stand in Marvel Studios’ grand conclusion to twenty-two films, “Avengers: Endgame.”
I love the Guillermo del Toro Hellboy movies. Like, really love them. They’re so damn stylish and well made and well-acted. So, with that in mind, it was always gonna be hard for any Hellboy film not made by del Toro (or starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy) to truly succeed for me. That being said, I really didn’t except this remake of Hellboy to be so unenjoyable. It can’t seem to figure out what it is – it’s not really a new take on the character as it’s basically the same tone and look as the del Toro films but it’s not a continuation of those films, either. It’s not an origin story, but it kind of is one at the same time. It’s just a really big mess of a movie – and it’s a shame because there were some really good moments in the film.
Hellboy is back, and he’s on fire. From the pages of Mike Mignola’s seminal work, this action packed story sees the legendary half-demon superhero (David Harbour, “Stranger Things”) called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers The Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil series), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world. (Written by Christopher Golden, Andrew Cosby, Mike Mignola; directed by Neil Marshall)
Stephen King adaptations are notoriously hit or miss. For every decent one (the It miniseries from the ’90s or the It movie from 2017), there are at least two bad ones (nearly every other Stephen King miniseries, The Dark Tower, and the Carrie remake from a few years ago). It seems that what often works for King in his prose work doesn’t work very well in visual mediums. And that, unfortunately, is the case for this remake of Pet Sematary. Based on his original novel, and the 1989 film of the same name, Pet Sematary is a perfect example of all the reasons a lot of Stephen King stories don’t work in film. The first half of the movie is dreadfully boring, filled with characters who go undeveloped and are uninteresting, leading to a climax that, while often scary, isn’t particularly dramatically satisfying because the film has never made you care for the characters. King’s novels do a better job at establishing the characters and making them likable as he threads the spookier elements into the story. This film tries to do that but ultimately fails. (Spoilers ahead!)
Pet Sematary (written by Jeff Buhler and Matt Greenberg; directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer)
Based on the seminal horror novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), who, after relocating with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and their two young children from Boston to rural Maine, discovers a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family’s new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his unusual neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.
After what feels like ages of anticipation, the title of Star Wars: Episode IX has been revealed as The Rise of Skywalker. Today was the first day of panels at this year’s Star Wars: Celebration and, naturally, the whole shindig kicked off with a panel for Episode IX, complete with J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Joonas Suotamo, and Naomi Ackie, where Stephen Colbert asked the cast and crew a bunch of questions about the film that none of them could really answer. The closest thing to any real information we got is that 1) some time passes between the ending of The Last Jedi and the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker, 2) Naomi Ackie plays a character named Jannah, and 3) The whole gang would be going on an adventure together. The really good reveals didn’t come until the last few minutes of the panel when the teaser trailer was finally shown, revealing the title of the film at the end of the trailer.
Who would have thought that Shazam, of all movies, would end up being not only one of the best DCEU movies in years but one of the best superhero origin films in quite some time? Perhaps it’s down to my lack of familiarity with the character and, subsequently, my lack of any real expectations for the film, but I was pleasantly surprised by Shazam. It’s not particularly unique, or anything, but it is the most fun I’ve had with a superhero movie since Thor: Ragnarok, and that’s worth celebrating. Combining lots of humor, great visuals, solid acting, and genuine pathos, Shazam is a superhero movie that will bring out your inner kid as you watch it. It’s a whole lot of fun. (Mild spoilers for the film follow.)
We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) case, by shouting out one word–SHAZAM!–this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult Super Hero Shazam (Zachary Levi), courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart–inside a ripped, godlike body–Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Strong). (Written by Henry Gayden, directed by David F. Sandberg)