Friday, 16 September 2022

The Woman King (Movie Review)

Long before the Dora Milaje would grace the pages of fictional comic books, we had the real-life Agojie, an elite squad of women soldiers in the West African kingdom of Dahomey. And in The Woman King, those warriors are brought to life with all the flair one might expect from a summer blockbuster. But does the film actually deliver on the promise of the thrills seen in its trailers, or is it yet another example of Hollywood trying to cash in on an ongoing trend?

Set during the height of the rivalry between Dahomey and the Oyo Empire, the film follows Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a new recruit of the Agojie undergoing training under the tutelage of their formidable leader, General Nanisca (Viola Davis). The women serve a young king named Ghezo (John Boyega), whose efforts to keep the peace with both the Oyo Empire and European slave traders grow increasingly strained. And when tensions go beyond his control, his loyal Agojie must prepare to face off against the forces of the Oyo Empire, led by the ruthless general, Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukoya).

It is clear that a lot of care must have gone into crafting a film like The Woman King. From its opening battle scene, you are immediately thrust into the harsh realities of its brutal world. Except it is one where there exists a lot of beauty as well, shown through the culture of the Dahomey. But none of that would mean anything if the film didn't also tell a compelling story, which, thankfully, it manages to do over the course of its 135-minute runtime. And while that story might take a lot of creative liberties and deviations from actual history, it never felt superficial or implausible.

The comparisons to Black Panther are inevitable of course, especially coming out just two months before its highly-anticipated sequel. But while the former had depicted its female warriors as nearly infallible killing machines, this one takes a far more realistic approach to its depiction by not shying away from showing its warriors take some painful licks and blows. That said, you can still expect plenty of action scenes that require some level of suspension of disbelief, none of which was enough to take me out of the movie.

This is because the film is anchored by truly great characters, and those characters were generally driven by solid performances across the board. Nawi serves as an appropriate surrogate for viewers to follow, allowing us to learn about the Agojie and their way of life. Despite her hotheaded ambition, I was quickly endeared to her desire to prove herself. Viola Davis was as well as captivating as ever, but it was actually John Boyega who garnered the most cheers in the theater where I saw the movie. I suspect that had a lot to do with his nigh-on perfect Nigerian accent and overall charm.
If I had any criticism to give about The Woman King, then it would be that its ending didn't quite resonate with me as strongly as I wanted it to. This is not to say that the film had ended on a downer, but just my way of expressing my disappointment at the fact that a certain plot thread hadn't been fleshed out more. I obviously can't get into what that was without also getting into spoilers, but I can at least say that it was a minor detail in the grand scheme of the movie, and chances are you might not even have the same problems that I had with it.

The Woman King is a historical epic that plays like a summer blockbuster. Its story and well-choreographed action scenes are sure to please moviegoers, but it is its excellent characters that work to elevate the movie above your typical popcorn fare. This is a movie that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, irrespective of what you think about Hollywood trends or its so-called "woke agenda." Plus it is sure to scratch some of that Black Panther itch for those waiting for Wakanda Forever.

Friday, 19 August 2022

The Next 365 Days (Movie Review)

All good things come in threes. Or in the case of the 365 Days trilogy on Netflix, they at least come to an end. That is indeed the promise of The Next 365 Days, the third and hopefully final film in the series of erotic thrillers. Whether or not you've been eagerly anticipating this conclusion, you've got to admire the filmmakers for sticking with the same tired formula over the course of three movies. But does the new film manage to salvage what is left of its worn-out premise, or does it further succumb to the laws of diminishing returns?

Much like the previous films in the series, The Next 365 Days centers on the evolving relationship between our two leads, Massimo and Laura. For those keeping track, the latter had been shot at the end of the last film and the new film's opening moments lean heavily into that cliffhanger ending, with Massimo shown mourning the loss of someone at their graveside. The scene is juxtaposed against another showing a meeting between the two rival crime families established in the prior films, as Massimo promises bloody retribution should his rivals continue their push to encroach into his family's territory.

Laura only manages to stay dead for all of five minutes though, before it is revealed that she is once again miraculously alive and well on her way to full recovery from her bullet wound. But the events of the last film had taken an emotional toll, and it is immediately clear that she is still harboring feelings for Nacho, aka Massimo 2.0, despite his allegiance to the rival crime family. So as you can imagine, this puts an even greater strain on her relationship with Massimo, thus setting the stage for the film's central conflict.

All of that is of course just set dressing, because the filmmakers clearly know what their target audience wants. So you can expect even more steamy sex scenes with very little bearing on the film's overall plot, all of which are set to generic pop music from artists no one has heard of. This is all familiar territory at this point, as we've pretty much all come to know what to expect with these lowbrow erotic movies. So anyone going into The Next 365 Days expecting anything other than what is given only has themself to blame.

That said, the fact that something has already established itself as being mediocre by design doesn't then excuse its further descent into mediocrity. And The Next 365 Days certainly feels like a new all-time low for the series with its poor dialogue, acting, story, and lack of direction. Its biggest crime in my opinion, however, is an overriding feeling of saminess. You can only watch so many sweeping slow-mo shots of lavish interiors and beautiful locales before the whole thing starts to blur together. At least the last film tried to shake things up with the introduction of a love triangle and some truly meme-worthy dialogue.

But this one can't help but feel lazy or like a downgrade by comparison, like the writers have simply run out of ideas and the cast and crew are merely going through the motions of churning out another film through mere obligation. The film meanders for most of its runtime, clumsily stumbling from one sex scene to another along the way. I realize that some of that might come directly from the source material itself but also believe it is the filmmaker's job to have a tighter script. And just like the larger film trilogy, this one stretches what little actual story it has to tell too thin and suffers as a result. 

I could think of a few choice words to try to convey just how bad The Next 365 Days is, but trust me when I say none of them will do the film justice. Its failure to respect the viewer's time makes it extremely difficult to recommend to anyone, except those that are already committed to finding out how the story ends. Even then, you'd be better served by waiting to read a plot summary on Wikipedia instead because there is very little satisfaction to be had here. The one silver lining I guess is the fact that they've finally run out of source material to adapt, this being based on the last one in the book trilogy. So hopefully this is the last we are going to see of Massimo and Laura and their questionable love for one another.

Friday, 12 August 2022

Day Shift (Movie Review)

The streaming wars appear to be waging on as another big-budget film makes its exclusive debut online. Having only just been blessed with the brilliant Prey on Hulu last week, we now turn to Netflix for Day Shift, an action comedy anchored by Jamie Foxx. His latest film carries a hefty $100 million production budget, a sum that is incidentally half that of last month's The Gray Man. And while many might rightfully question the continued viability of these films, the more important question is whether or not this particular one manages to put that budget to good use.

The film stars Jamie Foxx as Bud, a man who struggles to balance his time between his job as a vampire hunter and being there for his daughter. But when he is given only seven days by his ex-wife to raise the money he needs to pay her tuition, he is forced to turn to the Vampire Hunters Union for assistance. And there he gets saddled with a rookie named Seth (Dave Franco), who is to ensure that he works within the boundaries of the Union's rules, even as he is relegated to the less lucrative day shift.

On the surface, Day Shift is a buddy cop comedy with supernatural horror elements. So instead of drug dealers and street-level thugs, our duo must deal with the vampires that call the San Fernando Valley area home. And while that might sound like an interesting enough concept to carry an action film, it is actually the inherent charm of its two leads that serves as its crutch. 

Jamie Foxx is no stranger to starring in these high-profile Netflix films, having previously worked with the streamer on Project Power. But unlike that film centered on drugs that gave its users superpowers, no explanation is ever truly given for his ability to go toe-to-toe with multiple vampires in this one, other than a throwaway line about him once serving in the military. So needless to say, some suspension of disbelief would be required for you to truly get on board with the movie.

Thankfully, the film never takes itself too seriously, which is reflected in both the plot and its overall tone. Dave Franco provides most of the comic relief, even though he doesn't make an appearance until about 30 minutes into the film. Snoop Dogg also channels his inner OG as the film's resident badass, a seemingly infallible vampire hunter that seems capable of doing no wrong. 

Your enjoyment of these particular elements could very well hinge on your tolerance for its kind of humor, which is often of the gross-out variety. The film also wears its R rating like a badge of honor, so expect plenty of decapitations and copious amounts of blood. This is of course lightened by its comedic nature, and while not every one of its jokes land, the ones that don't are made up for by some genuinely thrilling action sequences.

Day Shift provides more than enough dumb fun for anyone craving a late summer action comedy with plenty of blood and guts. Just don't go into it expecting anything more than what was promised by its trailer. For better or worse, this is yet another overpriced Netflix film that skates by on the strength of its high-profile leads, and watching both Jamie Foxx and Dave Franco riff off of one another remains this one's biggest highlight.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Prey (Movie Review)

Following an amazing feature film directorial debut with 10 Cloverfield Lane, Dan Trachtenberg returns to direct Prey. His latest film is set in the Predator universe, taking place nearly 300 years before the original film. And while that movie remains one of the most iconic sci-fi releases from the 1980s, its various sequels have struggled to match its thrills and overall inventiveness. So my hope going into this prequel was that we would finally get an entry that was worthy of the Predator name.

The film follows the exploits of a young Native American woman named Naru, as she prepares to undergo a rite of passage that involves hunting one of the indigenous predators in the forest near her home. But she feels both overshadowed and undermined by the men in her tribe, who believe she has no place on the hunting grounds. Determined to prove her worth as a skilled hunter, she sets off with her dog to investigate some strange tracks she had spotted during their last hunt. But little does she know that the predator she is tracking is of an alien origin.

To say that Prey is a marked improvement over all the other Predator movies that came before it is an understatement. From its opening frames, you can pretty much tell that this one is a class above the others. The film is at once beautiful to look at, with sweeping shots of the vast forest landscape that serves as its setting. And that setting is used to great effect throughout the film, to create a heightened sense of dread as the cloaked predator moves around unseen.

These are old tricks from the previous films and the wider sci-fi horror genre, to be sure, but never have they looked this good, or worked this well. And the same thing can be said about the special effects, which strike a nice balance between looking retro and modern. I particularly enjoy films where most of the effects are achieved through practical means, and it was nice to see the same reflected here.

The film is not just about the predator of course, which brings us to Amber Midthunder as our lead, Naru. I am not familiar with much of her prior work, so it was indeed a pleasant surprise to see her anchor the film with a strong, heartfelt performance. Dog lovers are bound to be instantly endeared to her through the depictions of her interactions with her canine partner. I had my reservations about the character when I first saw the trailers but I'm pleased to say she had won me over by the end of the film.

Speaking of reservations, it is worth noting that the film is a bit on the graphic side, with some cool-looking gore effects. Fans of the franchise shouldn't be surprised to hear this of course, but casual viewers or the more squeamish among us might find some of it a bit excessive. It also takes a while for things to really kick into gear, as the filmmakers take the requisite time needed to set the stage. But once they do, you'll be cheering along in what is one of the most satisfying showdowns I have seen all year.

Prey infuses the Predator franchise with some much-needed class. But even more than that, it is a great standalone movie in its own right, making effective use of its limited scope and bag of old tricks. It is anybody's guess why, despite being solidly crafted, it has wound up on a streaming service instead of playing in theaters like it deserves. But here's hoping that it signals a fresh, new direction for subsequent films in the franchise to emulate or follow.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Bullet Train (Movie Review)

As the summer movie season begins to wind down, one could be forgiven for thinking we've run out of worthwhile movies to go out and see on the big screen. But as astute moviegoers no doubt know, the back half of the season typically serves as fertile ground for smaller-scale genre films to shine, away from the shadow of the larger tentpoles. And Bullet Train definitely fits that category, the new action comedy by Deadpool 2 director, David Leitch. The question, however, is whether or not this particular train is worth catching in the first place.

The film stars Brad Pitt as Ladybug, an aging assassin whose latest job aboard the titular bullet train quickly goes awry. What was supposed to be a simple snatch and grab of a high-value briefcase descends further and further into chaos when it turns out that several other assassins, with varying ties to one another, were also there on conflicting assignments. Now he must not only struggle to piece together why they were all gathered there but also fight or outsmart the others long enough to make it off the train alive.

It doesn't take very long into Bullet Train to realize what type of movie it is, a stylish action comedy that seems derivative of other works. This is mainly because the film is not afraid to wear its influences on its sleeves, borrowing from the likes of Guy Ritchie and Edgar Wright with a visual style and nonlinear storytelling structure that immediately calls to mind movies like Snatch and Baby Driver. But what helps to set this one apart is its director's own background as a stunt coordinator.

Having worked on films like Atomic Blonde and John Wick, David Leitch continues to show his flair for stylized action and tightly-choreographed fight scenes. Most of it is thankfully easy to follow despite the high-octane nature of the narrative itself, which is a relief in a genre that is becoming increasingly reliant on fast cuts and shaky cameras. His latest film also makes the most of the confines of its single location setting, much like the similarly-set Snowpiercer, even though this one relies a bit more heavily on flashbacks to fill in the details of its back story. 

None of that would mean anything of course if the film didn't also give us characters worth caring about. And on that front the movie shines with one of the most stacked casts I have seen all year. Brad Pitt once again takes the place of the charismatic lead, but it is actually the duo of Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson that proved to be most endearing. They play a pair of ruthless fruit named assassins who provide most of the movie's gags and heart. There were also a number of surprise cameos sprinkled throughout the film, none of which I am going to spoil here. But it was nice seeing so many recognizable faces, even if quite a few of them felt criminally underutilized.

It is also worth noting that the film did take a considerable while before all the pieces of its overarching narrative fall into place. So less patient viewers might find all the earlier narrative hopping and character shifts a bit hard to follow. But at just over 2 hours in length, the whole thing never started to run out of steam or wear thin.

Bullet Train is another B-tier action flick that is sure to satisfy genre fans with its endless thrills and many twists and turns. The narrative does threaten to go off the rails atimes, as its overlapping subplots and implausible scenarios veer ever so close to teetering off the track. But everything is kept humming along thanks to a stellar ensemble and often clever script, as it builds to an explosive climax that is just as big as it is audacious.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

The Gray Man (Movie Review)

Netflix has been in the news a lot lately, as the company continues to struggle amidst an evolving streaming landscape. It hasn't all been bad news or lost subscribers though, with the streamer managing to score some major viewership wins through the most recent season of Stranger Things. And now it is once again making a play for theater quality thrills with its latest spy thriller, The Gray Man. But considering a price tag that ranks the film as one of its most expensive, the question becomes whether or not this new blockbuster even manages to justify its existence.

The film stars Ryan Gosling as Sierra Six, a black ops mercenary working for the CIA. He soon finds himself becoming the agency's latest target after he comes into possession of some incriminating evidence. In a bid to stop him, the agency resorts to enlisting the services of a former agent named Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans). But Lloyd proves to be a little more than they can handle, after he shows his willingness to go to any lengths to bring down his target, with no regard for collateral damage.

If it sounds like you've heard that synopsis before then it's probably because you have. Because for all its blockbuster ambitions, The Gray Man is yet another cookie-cutter spy thriller about the shady dealings of intelligence agencies. That is not to say that its derivativeness is an immediate death sentence to the film's prospects, but it surely won't be scoring any points for originality. Where it does attempt to set itself apart from those that came before it though is in its scope and execution.

Much like the novel it is based upon, the movie finds our lead embroiled in an adventure of international espionage. And Ryan Gosling slips into the role of Sierra Six like a glove, with a performance that strikes the right balance between stoic and self-aware. Ana De Armas is likewise very badass as his partner, Dani, although her turn in this film was nowhere as scene-stealing as the one she'd given in No Time to Die. But the biggest standout was of course Chris Evans, who fully embodies the unhinged nature of the film's main antagonist with a performance that could be considered mustache-twirling but comically so.

The movie also looks good for the most part, although I suspect that might depend on your tolerance for its overreliance on drone shots and shaky cam footage. It is also well-paced, never seeming to lose any steam during its two-hour runtime. The Russo brothers clearly know how to keep viewers engaged as they've proven time and time again in their MCU offerings, and they know just when to drop the big setpiece moments that have since grown to define their work.

Some of the action sequences in their latest film are genuinely thrilling to watch, especially if you like over-the-top stunts of the Michael Bay variety. There was one particular chase scene involving a train that is guaranteed to have action junkies at the edge of their seats, showcasing where most of the $200 million production budget went. But anyone expecting thrills of a more cerebral kind would be best off tempering those expectations beforehand.

The Gray Man is ultimately let down by an all-too-familiar story that is just serviceable enough to see it through to the finish line. Its three main stars help to pick up some of the slack, while its action scenes at least give viewers something bright and shiny to ogle at. But none of that is enough to save what essentially feels like another soulless action film being churned out by Netflix in a bid to pad out their growing library of on-demand movies.

Friday, 8 July 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder (Movie Review)

The fourth film to center upon the misadventures of the MCU's resident god of thunder has arrived. And its arrival marks the return of Taika Waititi who once again takes his place in the director's chair, looking to replicate some of the magic he had infused into Thor: Ragnarok. But does his latest film manage to surpass the lofty heights of the previous one or is this just another case of more of the same?

The story picks up right where Avengers: Endgame left off, with Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) now a proud member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Meanwhile, a new villain named Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) lives up to his name by wreaking havoc across several planets as he goes around slaying their gods. This would force Thor to set off on a quest to stop him before he rids the entire galaxy of all the gods. But Thor would need all the help he can get, even if it means looking for it in the most unexpected places.

The Thor movies haven't always been in the topmost tier of the MCU. All that had changed with Thor: Ragnarok of course, a movie that many considered a pleasant surprise with how well it balanced some of its heavier subject matters with moments of levity. But with that sense of surprise now gone, Thor: Love and Thunder can't help but feel like another attempt to capture lightning in a bottle. 

This is my way of saying your enjoyment of the film could very well hinge on how much you enjoyed the last one. Because for better or worse, the new film doubles down on a lot of the humor and overall lightheartedness that has since come to define the series. Taika Waititi once again proves that he knows how to handle these characters, bringing out yet another round of standout performances from the cast. Christian Bale was formidable as Gorr, while Russell Crowe provided some of the movie's biggest laughs.

The whole thing did tend to border a little too close to the edge of slapstick this time around though, and while not every single one of its jokes might land, there is bound to be at least one or two that will get even the most jaded or cynical of moviegoers chuckling out loud. I particularly found the two goats to be comically obnoxious, and there was a line about Gorr's teeth that had me in stitches.

Aside from getting its audience to laugh, the movie still needs to provide some decent action to be considered a true product of the MCU. And it certainly delivers on those fronts as well, with some of the most gloriously over-the-top action and heavily stylized blood and gore I've seen in a PG-13 movie. There is one particular scene that was shot in stunning black and white, using splashes of color to depict the interplay between light and shadow. It is such moments that helped elevate the film beyond being just another formulaic entry in the Thor series and larger MCU.

Thor: Love and Thunder employs a lot of the same tricks that helped define Thor: Ragnarok, particularly its reliance on humor to tell an otherwise dark and heartfelt story. Taika Waititi has already proven through prior films like Jojo Rabbit that he knows how to tug on people's heartstrings when he needs to, and he does that so effortlessly in this one. The film might not quite manage to reach or exceed the sheer brilliance of Thor: Ragnarok, but it still offers enough entertainment value to be considered a good time at the movies.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Top Gun: Maverick (Movie Review)

Long before he became one of Hollywood's most recognizable leading men, Tom Cruise had starred in Top Gun, a film that would go on to become one of the biggest breakout movies of the 1980s. Not only would it gross several times its production budget during its original theatrical run, but it would also produce a successful soundtrack album that would earn it an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Despite all that success, it would take three and a half decades before we finally got a sequel in the form of Top Gun: Maverick. Now that the new film is out in theaters, I figured I would share my thoughts on whether or not it was worth the wait.

The film takes place 36 years after the original, with Captain Pete Mitchell, aka Maverick (Tom Cruise), still working as a naval pilot. Unlike most of his peers, he has refused to advance within the Navy's ranks, just so he can continue flying. But after a reckless maneuver during a test flight causes his superiors to ground him indefinitely, he is given a lifeline by an old friend (Val Kilmer). He is to return to TOPGUN, a school where the very best naval aviators get trained. But not as a student, but rather as an instructor for a new batch of hotshot pilots, as they prepare for the most dangerous mission of their collective careers.

On the surface, a movie like Top Gun: Maverick might look like yet another attempt by a Hollywood studio to revive an old intellectual property using nostalgia and star power. But to dismiss it as such would be doing a disservice to the amount of love and care that has gone into crafting the film. Director Joseph Kosinski has already shown that he has a keen eye for striking visuals through films like Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, and the same vision is on full display in his latest film. The whole thing was filmed in 6K IMAX with over 800 hours of aerial photography captured. The result is some of the most breathtaking visuals to be shown at the cinemas all year and a movie that simply begs to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

All those beautiful shots wouldn't mean anything if the film itself didn't have a decent enough story holding everything together, or if that story didn't center around a cast of relatable characters. Thankfully, the movie has both those areas covered with a solid script that hits all the required story beats as it builds up to an intense climax. Tom Cruise also gives one of his better performances while his co-stars all get to shine in their own ways. The fact that a lot of the film was filmed inside the cockpits of actual fighter jets thousands of feet in the air lends those performances a believability that can't be replicated on a green screen, and the film is better for it.

If there's one aspect of the movie that I could single out for criticism then that would have to be just how heavily it leans into the nostalgia factor. The film practically opens with a shot-for-shot reenactment of the first film's title sequence. It also has a number of callbacks sprinkled throughout its runtime. These include everything from Miles Teller's Rooster rocking the same mustache as Goose, as well as an overreliance on flashbacks to help fill in the gaps of its story. But it is hard to truly fault the movie for any of this, not when everything else is handled so well.

Top Gun: Maverick is another rare sequel that manages to improve upon its predecessor in every conceivable way. It joins the ranks of Blade Runner 2049 and Mad Max: Fury Road to serve as shining examples of how old franchises can be updated for a modern-day audience. While its success is only going to open the floodgates for even more 80s films to be revived or rebooted in the months and years to come, I am still glad that we got this one and that it turned out as well as it did.

Jurassic World Dominion (Movie Review)

The third movie in the Jurassic World trilogy has finally arrived following the surprising turn of events at the end of the last one. Billed as the final film in the larger Jurassic Park franchise, this entry serves as a union of old and new, bringing back beloved characters from the original movie. But does the new film give those characters a worthwhile adventure to embark on or is this merely another retread that relies too heavily on nostalgia?

Set four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the film takes place in a world where dinosaurs run rampant and mankind has quickly adapted to their presence. And by adapted, I am referring to the fact that the nefarious among us have found creative ways to exploit the situation, be it through black market auctions or what have you. The new balance would soon be upset though when the greed and ambitions of yet another bioengineering company threatens to bring both species to extinction.

The Jurassic Park movies haven't really had to do too much to justify their existence over the years. Ever since the brilliant original,  all subsequent entries have adhered to the same basic template, for better or worse. They've all had serviceable stories interspersed with some tense dinosaur encounters and setpiece moments. And going by those standards, Jurassic World Dominion is up to snuff.

That said, I must first start by acknowledging that its well-worn formula has started to show its age. There are only so many times a T. Rex can show up at the last minute to save the day after all, before the whole thing starts to feel stale. So the new film certainly won't be scoring any points for inventiveness. Also, the sequels have never quite been able to replicate the awe and wonder we all felt the first time we saw dinosaurs milling about in Jurassic Park, and the same holds true for this one. The film tries hard to replicate shots and key moments from the first film, none of which ever manage to reach the same heights or capture the same thrills.

But all that should go without saying at this point, and Jurassic World Dominion isn't without its own share of thrills. It does take a while before the movie really kicks into gear but once it does, you'll be pretending to fear for the safety of our protagonists along with everyone else. It was nice seeing all three actors from the first film together again, though to call their inclusion in this movie anything other than nostalgia bait would be disingenuous. 

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard likewise continue to prove themselves capable leads. But make no mistake, the dinosaurs are the true stars of the show, with old favorites like Blue the velociraptor and the T. Rex making a return, as well as a pair of new apex predators that look like the stuff of nightmares. The film has all the tense moments the franchise is known for, even if none of it looks quite as cutting edge as it once did.

My biggest issue with the movie, however, stems from how it manages to gloss over its intriguing premise. Given how the last film had ended, it is a bit disappointing to see how quickly the entire world has come to grips with dinosaurs walking among us. Granted, it's been four years since those dinosaurs broke out from their confines on Isla Nublar, but it would've still been nice if we had gotten to see at least some of that initial chaos hinted at in the prologue for the film that was released last year.

Jurassic World Dominion brings both the new trilogy and the overall franchise to a somewhat subdued close. It does more than enough to be considered an entertaining time at the movies, no doubt, but it does so without any of the flair and brilliance that started the whole thing in the first place. And even though the film has been heavily marketed as the final one in the series, we all know it is only a matter of time before we get another new entry or trilogy. Because much like those shady bioengineering companies, the one thing a Hollywood studio can't pass up on is an opportunity to make even more money.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Everything Everywhere All at Once (Movie Review)

The concept of alternate realities is one that has been explored in countless works of fiction. There is something deeply fascinating behind the idea that somewhere out there exists other versions of ourselves. In the span of just a few short months, we've gotten movies like The Matrix Resurrections and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness also taking a stab at this subject matter, both with varying levels of success. And now we have Everything Everywhere All at Once, a movie that is already poised to give all those other works a run for their money.

The film stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, an ordinary woman whose barely-together life is shaken even further after she starts receiving instructions from an alternate universe. Her reality is just one of several that make up the multiverse, all of which are now being threatened by a mysterious enemy seeking to destroy it all. And out of the multitude of Evelyns that exist in the multiverse, hers is the only one capable of unlocking the unique set of skills needed to prevent this from happening. 

If it sounds like you've heard that plot summary before, that's because you probably have. For all intents and purposes, this is the same basic premise from the 2001 sci-fi movie, The One. Except instead of Jet Li turning two motorcycles into lethal weapons, we have a just as capable Michelle Yeoh, and the craziness surrounding its high-concept premise has been dialed all the way up to 11. 
But to say that Everything Everywhere All at Once is nothing more than a rehash of older films would be very reductive and also not true at all. It is, simply put, a transcendent work that manages to outdo everything that came before it at every turn. The film itself almost defies classification, taking all its familiar concepts and using them as a springboard to craft something truly profound. 
Its narrative touches upon everything from existential crisis to the meaning of life itself, and it does so with a surprising level of heart you wouldn't expect from what is essentially a comedy with plenty of visual gags and some gross-out humor. But it is the way in which all its disparate genres have been stitched together that lends the film its uniqueness, resulting in one of the wildest cinematic rides that I've been on since Mad Max: Fury Road.

At the core of that experience is a career-best performance from Michelle Yeoh. She channels the full gamut of her skill set in order to bring Evelyn to life, from her nuanced dramatic acting and comedic timing to some of the most creative uses of martial arts seen outside of a Jackie Chan movie. Her role was actually originally intended for the seasoned actor and it is easy to see how the current iteration of the character pays homage to his earlier work.

Everything Everywhere All at Once lives up to its promise of a wild and wacky adventure that is unlike anything you've seen before. Its high-concept premise wouldn't feel out of place in a Rick and Morty episode and I mean that in the best way possible. Some aspects of its narrative might not appeal to everyone's tastes, but there is indeed something here for every type of movie fan. This is the true Multiverse of Madness and the fact that it is able to tell a compelling story while passing a heartfelt message is reason enough for why it is worthy of your time.