Friday, 17 September 2021

Cry Macho (Movie Review)

Very few filmmakers working today are as resilient as Clint Eastwood. At 91 years old, the acclaimed actor and director continues to put forth excellent work in his movies, where others would've already opted for retirement. His latest project is one that has seen its own share of ups and downs, having been attached to several actors and directors since the screenplay was first written in the 1970s. But following a development period that seems worthy of its own movie, the film finally hit theaters and HBO Max simultaneously this weekend.

In Cry Macho, Clint Eastwood plays Mike Milo, a washed-up ranch hand whose glory days as a rodeo cowboy had ended with a severe back injury. Now he lives a life of solitude following the string of tragedies that have come to define who he is as a person. But when he is called upon by his former employer (Dwight Yoakam) to repay a debt that would involve him crossing the Mexican border to retrieve the man's estranged son, he finds himself forced to accept. What he doesn't count on though is just how challenging this particular job would prove to be.

Cry Macho once again finds Clint Eastwood stepping into the shoes of an aging cowboy. But unlike the brilliant Unforgiven, this is a film that is less concerned about shoot outs. It is effectively a road movie that centers upon the growing relationship between an old man and a young boy, and the film shines brightest when we get to see the chemistry between the two evolve. Clint Eastwood is just as charismatic as he has ever been, delivering a performance that was very much nuanced.

The same thing can't be said for the rest of the cast though, with performances ranging from good to just barely serviceable. Thankfully, most of the runtime is spent with our two leads, or three if you count Macho, the titular rooster. In terms of tone, the film is not afraid to throw in a few jokes, despite its otherwise serious premise. I wouldn't go as far as calling it a comedy, but things are kept lighthearted for the most part, no doubt to ensure that its feel-good message about redemption comes through strong.

My main criticism then is its somewhat slow pacing and relatively low stakes. The film has long stretches where barely anything seems to happen, lacking much of the excitement you would expect from a movie about a man operation outsides the lines of the law. But not every one of these films need to be plot-driven, or conform to the same rigid formula we've seen time and time again. This isn't Rambo: Last Blood after all, and neither does it need to be.

Cry Macho is a clear example of a passion project, and it is that passion that carries the film for most of its runtime. The story itself is simple, with very little in the way of twists or surprises, while its overall pacing does suffer from a lack of momentum. It helps of course that the whole thing is beautifully shot, and that Clint Eastwood's commandeering presence can be felt both in front and behind the camera. His execution might not be to everyone's taste, but what the film lacks in tension it definitely makes up for in heart.

Friday, 10 September 2021

Malignant (Movie Review)

As we once again approach Halloween, you can expect the various Hollywood studios to start serving up the horror goods. And Warner Bros. is one of the first ones to jump into the fray with Malignant, a supernatural horror film that is receiving a simultaneous release in theaters and on HBO Max this weekend. Directed by James Wan of Saw and The Conjuring fame, the film finds the acclaimed horror director taking time away from those other franchises to conjure up something new and unsettling.

In Malignant, a young woman named Madison finds herself inexplicably connected to a serial killer through visions of his grisly murders. And as the killer grows increasingly malignant, she gets embroiled in an investigation to catch him before he claims his next victim. But in order to get to the bottom of the mystery, she'll need to search deep within herself and channel the suppressed horrors of her troubled childhood.

Let me just start off by admitting that I was a little bit torn coming out of Malignant. On the one hand, I understand what James Wan was trying to accomplish with its throwback horror feel and the cheesy dialogue to go with it. On the other hand, I was almost put to sleep by the predictability of its build up and its lack of quality scares for most of its runtime, which is generally why you'd want to see a horror film in the first place, for the scares.

But the film spends so much time setting up its grand finale that by the time it gets to its third act, I was all but ready to check out completely. Thankfully, I hadn't, because I would've missed out on what is quite possibly the most insane and bonkers turn of events I have witnessed in a film this year. The final twist was so overwhelming that I found myself questioning what I was even watching. That's how gloriously executed that entire stretch of the movie was.

It's just a shame that the rest of the film didn't even attempt to measure up. On the flip side, the movie did have some great cinematography that worked well to heighten the tension in those earlier scenes, as well as some cool gore effects that is sure to leave all but the most jaded of gore hounds feeling squeamish. It did tend to get a little bit too heavy on its use of CGI though, which I generally don't like to see in horror films since it makes them feel less believable. But I'd still like to say that they manage to strike a nice balance between that and all the practical effects on display.

Malignant is saved by a climax so wild that you almost wouldn't believe your eyes while watching it. The final 20 minutes manage to go so completely off the rails, and in the best way possible, that it almost made up for the slog we had to endure to get there. James Wan clearly has a mastery of the art of horror, and the wildness and unhinged nature of this particular vision are what make the film ultimately worthwhile.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Movie Review)

Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was meant to kick off with Black Widow. But as anyone who had seen my review of that film would remember, I hadn't been too pleased with how it turned out. My main gripe stemmed from the fact that it didn't really move the MCU forward in any meaningful way, nor did it manage to do more than attempt to fill the gap between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

So we've basically had to rely on Disney+ shows like Loki and WandaVision to set the stage for the current phase of the MCU, which they have to varying degrees. Loki in particular looks like it might have long-reaching ramifications for films like Spider-Man: No Way Home as well as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But out of everything we've gotten in Phase Four thus far, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feels like its first true springboard for what's to come.

Set in the post-Blip portion of the MCU timeline, the film stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, a trained warrior who has long since turned his back on his family and their ways. He now spends his days working in LA as a valet with his best friend, Katy (Awkwafina). But after his father (Tony Leung) and leader of the Ten Rings criminal organization sends a number of his foot soldiers to hunt him down, he finds himself drawn back into the life he thought he'd already left behind.

As far as MCU origin stories go, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one of the best ones yet. It was certainly leagues above Black Widow, which didn't even feel like an origin story in the strictest of terms. This one introduces its title character and his particular corner of the MCU, without feeling like it was merely treading the same ground that past MCU origin films had, most of which is due to its talented cast, and the chemistry between them.
Simi Liu shines as Shang-Chi, delivering a performance that was strong enough to carry the movie. But he was of course helped along by Awkafina, who provided much of the comic relief. It was easy to buy into their friendship because both actors manage to make it look so pure and effortless. And Tony Leung plays what is now another top-tier MCU villain in the form of Wenwu, aka. the real Mandarin. There were several nods to the earlier iteration of the character throughout the film, none of which I will spoil here. 

But by far the biggest facet of the movie that I enjoyed was the fight choreography. The movie boasts some of the best action scenes in the MCU, borrowing heavily from Chinese cinema to create some truly jaw-dropping wire stunts that immediately call to mind films like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Fans of such films and Chinese mythology in general would definitely have plenty to ogle at, especially since it fully embraces their more fantastical side, unlike the recent Mulan live-action adaptation.

This is incidentally the one area of the movie that I found didn't always live up to that same high quality. I'm of course talking about the special effects, which were definitely special and spectacularly so for the most part. Some of it was convincing enough, while others were borderline cartoonish. This was especially true during the climax, where these MCU films typically tend to get CGI heavy. But all of that is par for the course, so it shouldn't really work to pull you out of the experience that much.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is proof that Kevin Feige and his team of writers still have a few tricks up their sleeves. They've crafted a world that feels just as integral to the overall MCU as everything that came before it. That they've done that while telling a story that was both heartwarming and awe-inspiring bodes well for the future of the franchise. And if this is any indication of what we can expect from these movies post-Avengers: Endgame, then fans still have a lot to look forward to.

Monday, 30 August 2021

The Green Knight (Movie Review)

Filmmaking in my opinion is all about stimulating the senses. Whether this is through a well-executed action scene like the ones we get in a typical summer blockbuster, or through stories that capture the imagination in other less visceral ways. And every now and then, we get a film that take either of those two things one step further, elevating the medium into the realm of fine art. Films like Mad Max: Fury Road and Blade Runner 2049 immediately come to mind, wherein the filmmaker's singular vision is on full display for all to see. The Green Knight is just the latest example.

Directed by David Lowery, the film is based on the 14th-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In this particular adaptation, Dev Patel plays Gawain, nephew to a battle-weary King (Sean Harris) who is challenged to a game by the eponymous Green Knight (Ralph Ineson) one Christmas morning. With nothing to lose and plenty to prove, Gawain accepts the challenge. But as he'll quickly come to find out, the knight's game is a lot more devious than he'd anticipated. Now he is bound to an oath that would have him journeying across the country to fulfill it.

I concede that I am a little bit late to the party with my review of The Green Knight, but that was mainly due to the fact that the film did not receive a theatrical release over here in Nigeria. Apparently, we have a low tolerance for so-called art films, as they tend to require a greater commitment from the viewer, who more often than not just wants something simple to serve as some mild escapism. Which is fine, and every film has its purpose and target audience. 

But all that is to say that I didn't get to see the movie the way it was meant to be seen, sprawled across a massive theater screen. And believe me when I say if ever there was a film that deserves the premium large format treatment, it is this one. The film is easily one of the most visually-striking I have seen this year, with cinematography that all but seems like a shoo-in at next year's Oscars. Every single shot is meticulously framed, and every single scene is tightly edited, which is saying something considering the film's deliberate pacing.

Speaking of pacing, the story follows the same general beats as its source material, with a few minor deviations to keep the film feeling fresh. But this is where the film itself might lose most viewers, because the director never shies away from letting the camera linger on his subjects, or from scenes that stretch on much longer than most viewers are accustomed to. In spite of all that though, none of those scenes felt inconsequential, or truly overstayed their welcome, not when they were filled with so much detail to parse and take in.

The closest thing I can liken it to is staring at a beautiful painting. Beneath every brush stroke lie layers of meaning and expression. And the movie is certainly filled with hidden depths, much like the poem it is based upon. It is a coming-of-age story that is less concerned with adventure than it is understanding what drives a young man in pursuit of honor and glory. Dev Patel helps to bring that young man to life, in what is arguably his most accomplished performance to date. And he is helped by one of the best ensembles on this side of the round table.

The Green Knight is not an easy movie to sit through, no doubt. The film meanders in the way that most slow-burn art films tend to do. The fact that it leaves its ending and overall narrative open to interpretation also might turn casual viewers off. But if you are willing to indulge in the director's striking vision and unique take on the classic Arthurian legend, then you'll find yourself lost in its vast canvas of rich textures and beautiful imagery.

Friday, 20 August 2021

Reminiscence (Movie Review)

The Warner Bros. slate of 2021 movies has been pretty much hit or miss thus far, with some truly standout films like Judas and the Black Messiah getting offset by some middling undertakings like The Little Things. So in a way, the fact that all those movies have been getting a simultaneous release on HBO Max almost seems like a godsend. And if ever there was one of these films that feels almost tailor-made for the streaming platform, then that film is Reminiscence.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future where most coastal cities are largely submerged underwater, the film follows Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a former war veteran who now works as a private investigator of the mind. Using a device called the Reminiscence, Nick helps his clients to relive some of their fondest memories. Because apparently things have become so dreary in this particular future that people would rather look back at such memories than forwards. 

But after Nick falls in love with one of his clients, a beautiful woman named Mae (Rebecca Ferguson), he finds himself drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy when she disappears almost as suddenly as she had popped into his life. Now he must follow a breadcrumb trail of clues and lost memories that would lead him into the seediest recesses of a dying world in order to find her.

From the very first time I saw the trailers for Reminiscence, there was no shaking that overriding lack of excitement the film seemed to exude. Despite its respectable budget, and the presence of A-list stars, those initial showings just didn't do anything to move the needle. So my hope going into the movie then was that it was going to be a case of the actual movie being better than the trailers, because we've certainly had movies in the past that were undersold by their trailers. Well, it turns out its trailers were a perfect reflection of the film, as they simply didn't have anything exciting to pull from.

I am as much a sucker for high-concept sci-fi as the next man, and the one thing that could've drawn me into Reminiscence was its post-apocalyptic setting. But the world-building in the movie was so underwhelming that it was hard for me to fully buy into its premise. The same thing could be said about its core concept of reconstructing people's memories, which while not underutilized still wasn't used to do anything particularly groundbreaking or worthwhile for that matter. 

All that is not to say that the film did not have anything going for it. The world was certainly beautiful to look at at times, and the actors seemed fully committed to their roles. But the whole thing ultimately rang hollow. Maybe it is the fact that I have seen so many former war veterans turned private eyes at this point, or post-apocalyptic near futures where humanity teeters on the edge of extinction. Whatever the case, it definitely didn't help the movie, making it feel like a lesser version of those other works.

Reminiscence merges its high-concept premise with some classic hard-boiled detective storytelling. Unfortunately, the two don't always gel well together, resulting in a film that quickly starts to feel derivative. This also isn't helped by the fact that the film is plagued by some truly hamfisted dialogue, as well as pacing issues that prevent it from ever getting off the ground. But if you are willing to look past all of that, then the movie is at least worth passing some time with from the sturdy comfort of your couch.

Friday, 13 August 2021

Free Guy (Movie Review)

Video games have been the subject of several Hollywood movies of varying quality. On one end of the spectrum, we have films like Wreck-It Ralph and Ready Player One, films that pay respect to the medium while still managing to tell compelling stories. At the other end, we have bottom-of-the-barrel offerings like 2009's Gamer, a film that was just as ridiculous as it was generic. So the question then is where exactly does Free Guy land on this particular quality spectrum,  a question that will be answered over the course of this review.

In Free Guy, Ryan Reynolds plays the titular Guy, a bank teller living in a city that is plagued by near constant crime and mayhem. And much like the other denizens of the city, he is resigned to his fate as cannon fodder for the many "hero" characters responsible for said mayhem. Because unbeknownst to Guy and the other citizens, he is actually a non-playable character in a popular online game called Free City. But when he crosses paths with the woman of his dreams one fateful day, he gets swept up in a mission to save the world he calls home.

Going into Free Guy, I had expected your run-of-the-mill Ryan Reynolds action comedy. And to a degree, that is exactly what the movie delivers, Ryan Reynolds dishing out his particular brand of self-deprecating humor. What I didn't anticipate though was a story that was just as thought-provoking as it was fun. And while that story did tend to conform to some well-worn tropes and story beats we've already seen in similar movies, it did so without feeling too derivative or unoriginal.

Most of that is due to the little surprises that were sprinkled throughout its two-hour runtime. The movie is packed with Easter eggs and references, much like other gaming-centric movies of its kind. It also featured a number of celebrity cameos by popular streamers and some Hollywood A-listers. I won't spoil any of them here, but expect to find more than a few recognizable faces. Take note, Warner Bros. and Space Jam: A New Legacy writers; this is how to use intellectual property the right way.

It was also very refreshing to see a summer blockbuster where most of the action scenes take place in broad daylight. This was no doubt reflective of the film's overall tone, which was wild, wacky and fun, but in a very lighthearted way. The action itself was of course over-the-top and spectacularly so, but given the context in which most of it was taking place, still made sense and generally obeyed the rules it had already laid out for itself.

In terms of acting, the film's ensemble was decent overall. Ryan Reynolds played yet another variation of himself. Likewise, Lil Rel Howery proved to be adequate foil as his best friend, Buddy. Jodie Comer played the dual roles of Millie and Molotov Girl, her in-game avatar, and she'd generally pulled both off convincingly. And Taika Waititi plays the villainous Antwan, an over-the-top representation of the greedy corporate executives most gamers hear about in gaming news headlines.

If I'm being nitpicky, then it is worth pointing out that the film did seem to run out of steam about halfway through its second act, when most of the action ground to a halt to make room for some character development. It is also guilty of oversimplifying the process of game development, but was nowhere as offensive in that regard as the recent Space Jam movie. The film did make up for those shortcomings though with a strong final act that was filled with great action and cool Easter eggs.
Free Guy captures the joyous and chaotic nature of some of today's most popular online open-world games. But even more than that, it tells a heartwarming tale that should delight gamers and non-gamers alike. And although the film might not be a video game movie in the true sense of the word, it should still serve as yet another shining example of a film that successfully pokes fun at the medium while paying homage to video game culture at large.


Wednesday, 4 August 2021

The Suicide Squad (Movie Review)

Ever since it was first shown off at the DC FanDome event last year, The Suicide Squad had quickly grown to become one of my most anticipated films. So of course I was going to go see it at the earliest opportunity and on the biggest screen available. The film had released in the UK and other select territories last week, but advance screenings have just started here in Nigeria, ahead of its worldwide rollout in theaters and HBO Max this Friday. And out of all the same-day movies we have gotten on the latter thus far, this is the one that demands to be seen at the cinema the strongest.

Much like the 2016 film with which it shares its title and some of its characters, the new film once again finds government agent Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) leading a team of antiheroes on a suicide mission. This time around, Task Force X as they are officially known is tasked with infiltrating the island nation of Corto Maltese, where they are to find and destroy all evidence of something called Project Starfish. But what they find there is well beyond anything they could have imagined or prepared for.

The Suicide Squad is hands down the most fun I've had in a movie theater since Avengers: Endgame. And in many ways, the film is just as epic and packed with emotional highs as that other film. James Gunn breathes new life into its roster of characters, with familiar faces like Harley Quinn making a return. And much like Guardians of the Galaxy, his DNA was on full display once again. From music choices that heighten the on-screen action, to stylishly presented setpieces that rival some of the very best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The trailers might have already hinted at some of this, but trust me when I say they simply don't do justice to how brilliant the execution is in the actual movie. The best part is how utterly crazy and bonkers the film gets, pushing the boundaries for comic book movies in the best way possible. And speaking of bonkers, the film is also perhaps the bloodiest I've had the pleasure of witnessing in a cinema, easily earning its R rating. And thankfully, most of it isn't mere blood and guts for the sake of it, like Birds of Prey before it, where its R rating felt very much tacked on.

In my review of the 2016 version of Suicide Squad, I had accused that film of being all style with very little substance, which is one thing that can't be said about this one. The new movie has an overall charm that was very much lacking in that other film, as well as way more heart than I had expected. I was especially surprised by how much I grew to care about its characters over the course of the film, with each one getting to shine with their unique abilities and fully-fleshed out backstories. I am tempted to name Polka-Dot Man as a highlight, but that would suggest that other characters like King Shark or Rat Catcher weren't as endearing, which was certainly not the case.

I realize I have spent the bulk of this review gushing about the new Suicide Squad film, and the critic in me would at least like to point out one or two shortcomings. But the fan in me genuinely thinks that this movie ticks all of the boxes, and should serve as a prime example of how to adapt these types of movies going forward. This is not to say that the movie was flawless by any stretch of the imagination, but rather an illustration of how all the things it does right elevates it beyond any perceived shortcomings.

The Suicide Squad is not only one of the best DCEU films to date, it is also one of the best comic book movies, period. It is leagues ahead of the 2016 David Ayer film that preceded it, and the more recent Birds of Prey, so much so that it is almost hard to imagine that all three movies exist within the same universe. James Gunn has delivered a take on the property that fires on all cylinders. I can't say enough good things about the film, so do yourself a favor and go see it for yourself. Just make sure it is on the biggest screen available.

Friday, 30 July 2021

Jungle Cruise (Movie Review)

Disney continues to test the PVOD waters with Jungle Cruise, its fourth overall movie to receive a simultaneous release in theaters and on Disney+ through its Premier Access model. This is coming right after the heavily-touted success it had seen with Black Widow earlier in the month. And much like that other film, this one was originally slated to debut last summer, before being bumped a full year in the wake of lockdowns and COVID concerns. Now that the film is finally out, I'm here to tell you whether or not it manages to stay afloat in uncharted waters.

All sailing puns aside, Jungle Cruise stars Dwayne Johnson as Frank, a skipper who gets hired by a brother and sister (played by Jack Whitehall and Emily Blunt) seeking to explore the Amazon river in search of the fabled Tree of Life. Their adventure is made all the more perilous by the fact that they are being hunted by a German aristocrat (Jesse Plemons) who also seeks to find the Tree. But little do they all know about the dangers that await them in the depths of the jungle.

Jungle Cruise is just the latest Disneyland attraction to be turned into a full-fledged film, following after the very successful Pirates of the Caribbean film series. And similar to those movies featuring an Oscar-worthy performance by Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, this one is also elevated by the star power of its lead, or leads to be specific. Both Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt give great performances, and the ensemble as a whole more than make the movie worth the price of admission.

The movie also has that sense of adventure you'd expect from a film about facing the many dangers of the Amazon. Most of its setpieces were a little too heavy on their use of CGI though, but even that is to be expected from a film of this nature. The main letdown then is in its generic story, and a marked absence of real stakes. Not once in the movie did I fear for the lives of its protagonists, despite the film's attempts to convince me otherwise. But I imagine this was done to keep things lighthearted and more importantly, family-friendly.

Jungle Cruise is a fun-filled adventure film that should appeal to fans of genre classics like those in the Indiana Jones series. But while it might not quite match those films in sheer thrills, it still offers many of its own while serving as a showcase for its star-studded ensemble, all of which come together to make its adventure ultimately worthwhile.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Snake Eyes (Movie Review)

The G.I. Joe movie franchise receives another shot in the arm with Snake Eyes, its third entry and second attempt at a soft reboot. The two previous films had been met with a largely negative reception, despite scoring some measure of success at the box office. So for this new one, the hope was that it would finally get things right and set the franchise up with a solid foundation for future installments.

The movie stars Henry Golding as the titular Snake Eyes, a man that is taken in by an ancient Japanese ninja clan after saving the life of one of its high-ranking members. There he must not only earn their trust, but he must also undergo training and pass through a series of grueling tests in order to prove his loyalty. But after witnessing the death of his father at a young age, he'll be forced to choose between fulfilling his quest for revenge and his ties to his new family.

I'd gone into Snake Eyes with lowered expectations, based mainly on the quality of the two previous G.I. Joe movies. Because let's face it, those movies weren't exactly great, meaning that this latest film had a very low bar to scale to be considered an improvement. And in a way, it was this very fact that had helped to cushion my disappointment at its otherwise bland story and muddled execution. 
The film simply lacks the kind of spark you'd want to see in a movie about ninjas doing ninja stuff. Not that anyone should be going into a movie based on a Hasbro toyline expecting anything particularly groundbreaking, but still. Its one saving grace should have been its action scenes, but even those were marred by an overreliance on fast cuts and shaky cameras. What little could be seen of its fight choreography and wire stunts was awesome though, channeling the kinetic energy of classic ninja films. 
But when otherwise competent martial artists like The Raid's Iko Uwais are made to look uncharacteristically slow, then there is something clearly wrong with the way their actions are being presented. Speaking of which, the film does boast a solid overall ensemble, with Henry Golding bringing much of the same level of charisma he had shown in Crazy Rich Asians. But the true standout was Andrew Koji who plays Thomas Arashikage, the man who would eventually become his archrival, Storm Shadow.

Snake Eyes is easily the best film in the G.I. Joe movie franchise thus far. But considering how poorly put together the last two films were, that's not saying much. The film squanders its great ensemble on a generic plot that barely manages to get the job done. That said, there's certainly some enjoyment to be had with the movie. And while it might not on its own fully revitalize the franchise in the way its filmmakers had no doubt hoped, I am still more than curious to see what comes next.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Space Jam: A New Legacy (Movie Review)

Back in 1997, it seemed like one could barely put on the TV without hearing "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly. The song was so ubiquitous that it pretty much transcended the movie that spawned it. All that is to say that I still consider Space Jam an integral part of that particular slice of my childhood. So as you can imagine, the cynic in me was quite skeptical the moment I learned they were doing a sequel, all these years later. Turns out the cynic had every reason to be.

In Space Jam: A New Legacy, a basketball legend is sucked into a cartoon world where he must lead a team of Looney Toon characters to victory in a high-stakes basketball match. And you'll be forgiven for thinking I'd simply read out the synopsis for the original Space Jam, because the basic premise is the same. The only difference is where once stood Michael Jordan now stands Lebron James in his place.

Following an encounter with a rogue A.I named Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), both Lebron and his son, Dom (Cedric Joe), are trapped in the Server-Verse, a virtual reality world populated by the various Warner Bros. properties. In order to escape, they must each assemble a team to play in a basketball match against one another. And while Dom gets to put together a dream-team of augmented professional basketballers, Lebron gets saddled with the Looney Tunes.

I went into Space Jam: A New Legacy with lowered expectations, hoping to be mildly entertained at best. I mean, it is not as if the original Space Jam was all that great to begin with, even though the 10-year-old version of me had loved it at the time. So I'd channeled my inner 10-year-old as I attempted to enjoy the new movie for what it was. And to a certain degree, there is some enjoyment to be had with it.

The premise of the movie is flimsy at best of course. The whole thing is after all just an excuse to have Lebron James play basketball with some Looney Tunes, much like Michael Jordan had done in the first movie. Which is fine, since once again, no one is going into these movies expecting anything particularly groundbreaking from their stories. But unlike the original film, where I cared about the build-up to and actual game of basketball at its center, this one seemed to lack much of that spark.

I know it is probably the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia speaking, but I'd felt way more invested over the course of the first movie. This time around, I was merely going through the paces and looking forward to seeing more of its updated take on the original's formula. Where the new movie tries to make up for some of those shortcomings though was in the comedy department. Some of the jokes were actually quite funny, poking fun at a lot of Warner Bros. properties. But for every one of those laugh-out-loud gags, there were at least two or three that were eye-roll inducing.

Space Jam: A New Legacy feels like a film that was conceptualized during a board room meeting between Warner Bros. executives. It pays homage to the vast number of Warner Bros properties, but in so doing fails to include much of the sports drama that made the first film memorable. To its credit, it does try to include a story with morals about being your true self. But even that isn't enough to save what is essentially another cash grab at best, and an elaborate ad for Warner Bros. and HBO Max at worst.