Thursday, 22 April 2021

Stowaway (Movie Review)

My fascination with space and movies dealing with its exploration dates back to early childhood. From sci-fi classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey to historical dramas like Apollo 13, I've always loved watching the exploits of brave men and women journeying to the stars. That love had reached a crescendo when Gravity was released in 2013, a film that went on to become my favorite movie that year. So of course I was going to check out Stowaway, on the strength of its premise alone.

In Stowaway, three astronauts are on a two-year voyage to Mars. The crew is made up of Marina Barnett (Toni Collette), the commander of their ship, the MTS-42, as well as Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick), a medical researcher, and David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim), the ship's biologists. Following a successful launch, the three slowly start to settle into the routines that would govern the many months it would take them to get to Mars.

But they soon find themselves having to alter those routines, when they discover that a fourth person (Shamier Anderson) had managed to stowaway on their ship. Things are further complicated by the fact that they'd sustained some damage to their life support system, the implication being that they only have enough oxygen left for three people. Now the crew must decide on how best to handle the situation, or risk jeopardizing the entire mission.

From the very first frames of Stowaway, it became readily apparent that its filmmakers were working within some tight constraints. This is in itself not a red flag per se, especially in a single location film with only 4 principal actors. The cinematography helped to heighten the limited scope, which contributed to that feeling of claustrophobia. For example, the decision to keep the camera tightly focused on the faces of the crew members during its opening launch sequence, rather than show exterior shots of the ship, immediately puts those characters front and center.

So in other words, the movie was always meant to be more psychological and character-focused. And in terms of capturing what it is like for these characters to be stuck together on this voyage, it does a decent job. The performances in the film were also decent, with all four actors doing the best they could with the limited material at hand. The overall hook was intriguing as well, in a way that sci-fi thrillers like Gravity tend to be.

But where the movie seemed to fall down flat was in the way it didn't really do anything interesting with its premise. There were so many things I'd expected to see during the course of the film, and so many destinations it could have arrived at. The filmmakers instead take us on an underwhelming journey towards an ending where they try to tug at the heartstrings, but I was just too busy rolling my eyes at that point to shed a tear. Not to spoil anything, but anyone hoping for something similar to Sandra Bullock's triumphant first steps at the end of Gravity would be sorely disappointed.

Stowaway manages to squander its rather intriguing premise with a highly unsatisfying conclusion. That it also left some important plot threads unexplained is simply unforgivable in a film where hardly anything happens. The film drags for much of its runtime, and I found myself almost tempted to watch it at 1.5x speed just to counteract this. But if you have the patience and are already on the hunt for something new to watch on Netflix, then it is at least worth checking out.

Friday, 16 April 2021

Nobody (Movie Review)

In the wake of the recent success of the John Wick movies, several filmmakers have tried to replicate its formula, by stuffing their films with gritty, over-the-top action scenes and totally badass antiheroes. I am talking about movies like Atomic Blonde, a film that was itself directed by David Leitch, one half of the directorial team behind the first John Wick movie. But none of those films have come close to successfully replicating that formula until now.

In Nobody, Bob Odenkirk plays Hutch Mansell, a family man that seems to be having a midlife crisis. He is caught between a stale marriage and an unfulfilling job, and the unchanging daily routines holding all of it together. After their house gets broken into one night, and Hutch fails to deal with the intruders, he appears to hit an all-time low.

But Hutch soon decides to take matters into his own hands, and following a chance encounter with a group of Russian thugs one night, he is forced to unleash a part of himself that has been long dormant. Now Hutch must do everything he can to protect his family from the fallout, as he once again finds himself navigating the criminal underworld he had once turned his back on.

Nobody has Derek Kolstad's fingerprints all over it, from its grizzled protagonist to the over-the-top action that takes up much of its runtime. The John Wick screenwriter certainly has a flair for such stories, and it was on full display here. But it is actually the film's director (Ilya Naishuller) who's DNA was most at play. Much like Hardcore Henry, the movie plays out like a video game brought to life. 

There were disposable bad guys everywhere, who seemed to spawn one minute only to get dispatched with minimal effort the next. None of that is a dinge on the quality of the action by the way, which was generally topnotch and quite visceral, just a commentary on the type of logic one should expect in the film. Put simply, this is another one of those leave-your-brain-at-the-door action flicks.

But what actually helps to elevate Nobody beyond the designation of yet another John Wick clone was Bob Odenkirk's performance. The actor imbued the character of Hutch with enough heart and soul to make him instantly likeable. It was also nice to see him able to take on an action role like this one, even if it is in an action film that borders on the very edge of full-blown comedy.

The comparisons with John Wick are of course ultimately inevitable. Both movies center upon a former hitman who is being forced out of retirement after all. But unlike John Wick, which quickly veered towards the fantastical in its depiction of its criminal underworld, this one takes a more grounded-in-reality approach. Just don't expect any of that grittiness to get in the way once the bodies start piling up.

Nobody has enough over-the-top action to rival all the films in the John Wick franchise. And while it might not do too much to set itself apart from those films, the film at least acknowledges its lack of originality with something resembling a knowing wink. Bob Odenkirk's Hutch also proved to be just as endearing as John Wick, so much so that a part of me now wishes that we'd one day get a crossover featuring both characters.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Mortal Kombat (Movie Review)

Warner Bros. sure seems to be on a roll of late. And while the studio might still be busy basking in the glory of Godzilla vs. Kong's successful debut, that hasn't stopped them from going full steam ahead with the next film in their 2021 slate. That film is Mortal Kombat, the newest adaptation of the ultra-violent video game series that began its life in the early 90s. The film is currently scheduled for a same day release in US theaters and HBO Max, but started its international rollout this weekend.

In Mortal Kombat, a group of Earth's mightiest warriors have been chosen by the powers that be to fight in a tournament that would determine the fate of the world. This includes Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a mixed martial artist that was born with a strange dragon-shaped birthmark. After he finds himself and his family being hunted by a mysterious assassin named Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), he is forced to seek out a woman named Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) for help.

From Sonya he learns about a tournament between the various realms, and how this had been going on for centuries. The forces of the Outworld, led by a sorcerer named Shang Tsung (Chin Han), seek to take over the Earthrealm once and for all. And in order for Cole and his fellow warriors to defend it, they'd need to undergo training under the tutelage of the god of Thunder, Raiden (Tadanobu Asano).

As a long-time fan of the Mortal Kombat games, I had approached this latest adaptation with a fair amount of skepticism. A project like this, with a first-time director and a cast populated by B and C-list stars, more often than not ends up falling short of its full potential. Also, there is the fact that I was yet to truly recover from the trauma of watching Liu Kang transform into that CGI dragon in the last film in the franchise. So yes, this latest film had a lot to prove. And prove it it does. 

The fight scenes were tightly choreographed, and the special effects were convincing in a cartoonish sort of way. I was especially surprised by just how funny the movie was, and most of that was due to Josh Lawson's portrayal of Kano. He had the whole theater where I saw the movie bawling with laughter, taking what should have been the film's most obnoxious character and making it its most endearing.

The story of the movie on the other hand was just so-so, but they can only do so much with the premise being carried over from the games, so this shouldn't really come as a surprise. The decision to focus much of that story on the rivalry between Scorpion and Sub-Zero did lend the movie most of its emotional core. But this also contributed to what I felt was my biggest issue with the film.

For a movie called Mortal Kombat, I had expected to see something resembling the proper tournament we got in the 1995 film. But the closest thing we got to that here was a montage of several match ups that were taking place at the same time. It didn't feel like we had a group of fighters working their way up the ladder towards one final confrontation, or that the tournament itself was operating by any kind of discernible rules, the way it did in the video games.

Another issue I had with the movie was the way it just sort of fizzled out at the ending, as though the filmmakers were not quite sure where or how to end it. It is not that the ending was underwhelming per se, but the movie ends right when it felt like things were about to get good, making the whole thing feel like mere setup for future films.

It is also worth noting that the film is excessively violent, with enough blood and gore to make even horror fans squirm. But I think that should go without saying, given its source material and its storied history. It definitely earns its R-rating. So if you fancy watching a man rip a bat-winged woman in two with a weaponized hat, and hearing him call out "flawless victory" afterwards, then you're in for a bloody good time. 

Mortal Kombat works because it fully embraces the tongue-in-cheek nature of its source material. Unlike previous entries in the series, which tended to take themselves a little too seriously, this one strikes a nice balance between comedy and action. Its self-awareness elevates what would've otherwise been another retread into something that is sure to please fans of the games and the earlier movies alike.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Godzilla vs. Kong (Movie Review)

The epic showdown to rival all epic showdowns is here folks. The two monsters at the center of the ongoing MonsterVerse finally go toe-to-toe with one another in Godzilla vs. Kong. The people at Legendary Pictures have been building towards that fight since the 2014 reboot of the Godzilla franchise. And with this latest movie, it would appear that they've finally gotten the DNA of what makes these movies so appealing down to a science.

This is the part where I normally give a basic plot summary for the entire movie, before proceeding to share my thoughts. But to say that this movie had anything resembling an intelligible plot is a bit of a stretch. At best, it is all just meaningless setup to get the two titular titans to fight one another. But for anyone that has been following the threads introduced in the previous films in the MonsterVerse, here is all you need to know.

Kong has basically outgrown his home on Skull Island since the events of that movie. This prompts the scientists looking after him to take him on a journey across the ocean to find his "true home." Meanwhile, Godzilla is back again after asserting his position as the Titan alpha in King of the Monsters. Only this time, he attacks a research facility for reasons unknown as he goes on a rampage. And with the two monsters now out in the open, it is only a matter of time before both apex predators butt heads.

To say that I was excited heading into Godzilla vs. Kong after all the excellent trailers that preceded it is a bit of an understatement. My hype level for the film was through the roof, being a fan of at least one of the two monsters since early childhood (for anyone wondering, I was squarely on Team Godzilla). And I'm pleased to report that the movie didn't disappoint, at least on a purely visceral level.

The movie makes good on its promise of having the two titans duke it out, and then some. I especially loved how both monsters got to shine at various points throughout the movie, adding even more fire to the fan debates. The final showdown in particular was appropriately epic, hearkening back to the classic Toho movies while still delivering something that was ultimately fresh and modern. The overall outcome was fairly predictable, but it was still satisfying to see all of it play out.

It should go without saying that some suspension of disbelief is required in order for the movie to truly work. The human characters are also once again the weakest part of the movie, existing solely to give exposition dumps that try to make sense of everything that is happening. Thankfully, the film spends far less time following those characters, and puts the focus squarely on the two larger-than-life monsters moviegoers came to see.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the Marvel's Avengers of the Legendary MonsterVerse. It is easily the best film in the franchise thus far, and it stands as an improvement over the three films that came before it. And while it is far from a perfect film, the fact that it fully embraces the ridiculousness of its premise makes for a culmination that earns an easy recommendation from me.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Zack Snyder's Justice League (Movie Review)

The moment DC fans have been waiting for is finally here, again. Zack Snyder's cut of the previously-released Justice League makes its debut on HBO Max today. The fact that the film opens with a message from Zack Snyder himself reinforces the long and troubled road that has led to the movie's eventual release. And now that it is here, the unavoidable comparisons with the theatrical cut of the movie begin.

On the surface, Zack Snyder's Justice League is an alternative take on the formation of the DC superhero team. But by and large, this is the same core movie we got back in 2017, with Bruce Wayne traveling the world in an effort to put together a team of metahumans to stop the threat he had seen in a vision in Batman v Superman

That threat would once again materialize in the form of Steppenwolf and his army of parademons, who are still out searching for the three mother boxes, and Superman is still dead and not even seen for the bulk of the movie. That's all you need to know about the movie's story really, that it is largely unchanged aside from some fleshed-out backstories and a few surprises here and there.

The biggest difference then comes in the form of its length and overall style. There's plenty of Zack Snyder's signature flair for slow-motion sequences, some of which call back to his work on the visually-stunning 300. The movie also has a darker tone more in line with previous DCEU entries, as well as boasts an R-rating, which is immediately evident in its violent action scenes.

Some of the newer stuff doesn't quite match up with existing VFX shots though. I suspect that has more to do with the time between both cuts of the movie than anything else. There is also the issue of the movie's overall length, which starts to border on the edge of over-indulgent before long. But considering that my biggest criticism for the theatrical version was the fact that several key characters felt underdeveloped, the additional footage here brings some much-needed context.

This was especially true of Aquaman and Cyborg, with the latter in particular feeling more integral to the overall story this time around. You could really get a better sense of where both characters were coming from, making their initial reluctance to join the Justice League all the more understandable. Flash also got to shine with more extended action scenes, and the character was still responsible for much of this version's comic relief.

Another character that really benefited from the extended footage was Steppenwolf. He was not only depicted as a far more formidable foe than his depiction in the theatrical version, he was also given a fully fleshed-out backstory and a clear-cut motive. His desire to get back into the good graces of Darkseid meant we finally understood why he was so desperate to get the mother boxes, allowing me to even sympathize with him in a way that was impossible in the previous version.

And speaking of Darkseid, the DC villain was indeed in more scenes than I'd expected, but I can still see why he was ultimately cut from the theatrical version. He didn't really add much to the story, other than in an extended flashback sequence that helped establish the origin of the mother boxes. A part of me suspects he was merely included here to give hints of a potential sequel that may never see the light of day. But if the release of the Snyder Cut has taught me one thing, it is to never say never.

Zack Snyder's Justice League seems almost tailor-made for fans of the DCEU. It delivers its promise of a more coherent story, as well as a vision that was consistent with the director's two previous films. So the fact that it also manages to surpass that other version in several ways shouldn't really come as a surprise. And while it is quite unlikely that its release would prompt any shifts in plans for future movies, I am still glad that it exists and would gladly recommend it to fans and critics of the DCEU alike.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Cosmic Sin (Movie Review)

Every now and then, I find myself drawn towards the occasional B-movie. This is especially the case whenever I see big name Hollywood stars like Bruce Willis or Nicolas Cage attached to such projects. Call it morbid curiosity, but I typically go into these movies hoping for a potential gem, or at least one that might be worthy of the "so bad, it's good" designation. Cosmic Sin is unfortunately neither of those two things.

The movie takes place in the year 2524, after humans have developed the ability to travel to distant star systems. While trying to colonize a seemingly deserted planet, a group of soldiers make first contact with a race of aliens that prove hostile. To deal with the threat of further attacks, a rogue unit of soldiers decide to take matters into their own hands by executing a retaliatory attack on the alien's home world.

Fresh off his appearance in the sci-fi-martial arts hybrid, Jiu Jitsu, Frank Grillo plays Gen. Eron Ryle, the leader of this outfit. He is forced to enlist the help of a man named James Ford (Bruce Willis), a retired soldier who was renowned for his skill and calculative measures. Together, the two men must work to find the coordinates of the alien planet, before the aliens find their way to Earth and launch an all-out assault.

I don't know what I was expecting when I'd decided to check out Cosmic Sin exactly. Definitely not to be bored out of my skull though. For a movie that had been billed as a science fiction action film, I was surprised by just how uninspired that action turned out to be. The movie throws every war movie cliche and one-liner imaginable at viewers, with the hope that their inclusion would somehow mask its unremarkable storyline.

But this only added to my inherent frustration with the film. The dialogue was barely intelligible, filled with sci-fi jargon, and the actors themselves were far from convincing. Bruce Willis in particular looked like he would rather be somewhere else. In a better movie perhaps. His phoned-in performance was matched only by some truly cringe-worthy lines of dialogue. 

All that is to say that the movie was a chore to get through, which is saying something considering its barely 90-minutes runtime. But I guess you could also say that it comes with the territory. This is a B-movie after all. Except most B-movies at least offer some level of fun that make them worth the price of admission, a key aspect that was severely lacking in Cosmic Sin.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Raya and the Last Dragon (Movie Review)

At the start of the year, I had shared what I considered my most anticipated movies for 2021, most of which were carryovers from 2020. And the only animated film to make that list was Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon, a film that had been on my radar ever since it was announced at the D23 Expo in 2019. Originally slated for a November 2020 release, the movie debuted simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+, through a $30 premier access fee, this past weekend.

Set in a mythical kingdom called Kumandra, the movie follows the adventures of a young woman named Raya (Kelly Marie Tran). She is on a quest to summon the last dragon, Sissu (Akwafina), in a bid to reverse the curse that has turned much of her people to stone, and to banish the Drunn, the evil creatures responsible. But in order to do that, she must journey to the other warring factions that make up Kumandra, to steal back the pieces of a magical orb that serve as the source of the dragon's powers.

The first thing that struck me about Raya and the Last Dragon was its jaw-dropping animation. The wizards at the Walt Disney Animation Studios continue to impress with each subsequent movie they put out, and this latest one is certainly no different. Their movie is populated with lush landscapes and expressive characters, and the whole thing really pops in a way that only big-budget animated movies tend to do.

On the audio side of things, Akwafina once again shines, lending her voice to the titular last dragon. She was full of energy in an excessively talkative way, but never became obnoxiously so, much in the same way that Ellen DeGeneres managed to be in Finding Dory. Kelly Marie Tran also imbued Raya with all the quiet determination the character called for, and the ensemble as a whole was one of the better ones I've seen in an animated film.

Raya and the Last Dragon has all the right ingredients that make up a Disney animated classic. The movie is beautiful to look at, and the voice actors really help to bring the characters to life. But even more than that, it tells a heartfelt story with a message about setting aside our differences and coming together as one, a message that is especially timely today.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Coming 2 America (Movie Review)

It has taken more than three decades, but we've finally gotten a sequel to one of the biggest breakout comedies from the 1980s, Coming to America. In that film, a young African prince had decided to scorn the traditions of his kingdom, as he journeys to America in search of true love. Considered a cult classic till today, the movie was a hit with audiences all over the world. So it comes to reason then that expectations were reasonably high for this long-awaited sequel.

In Coming 2 America, Eddie Murphy reprises his role as Prince Akeem of Zamunda. It's been 30 years since the events of the first film, and now with the king (James Earl Jones) on his deathbed, Akeem must prepare to take the mantle for himself. He must also contend with General Izzi (Wesley Snipes), a local warload and leader of the neighboring kingdom of Nextdoria, who is still displeased that Akeem had opted not to marry his younger sister, Imani, in the first film.

With the two kingdoms on the verge of war, Akeem finds himself trying to secure Zamunda's future in the event of his untimely passing, a task that is made harder by the fact that he only had three daughters and no male heir. But he soon learns that he'd fathered an illegitimate son (Jermaine Fowler) with a woman named Mary (Leslie Jones) while in America. Now he must journey back to New York with his trusty aide, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), with hopes of finding him.

Coming 2 America doubles down on everything fans loved about the first movie. The result is a movie that might not be considered fresh or original, but one that also never ceases to be entertaining. And the fact that it doesn't even try to reinvent the wheel is certainly not a bad thing, not when the movie had so much going for it.

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall look like they've barely aged a day since the first movie, with both actors once again taking upon multiple roles. But the true highlight for me was Wesley Snipes, who looked like he was having the most fun out of all the actors. He also managed to garner the most laughs, as every single one of his scenes had me smiling from ear to ear.

The other performances ranged from good to adequate, although I found Leslie Jones' turn as Mary, the mother to Akeem's illegitimate son, a little too over-the-top and stereotypical for my liking. But taken as a whole, the ensemble certainly holds their own, even though other areas like the script left a bit more to be desired.

Coming 2 America might lean a little too heavily upon the nostalgia fans had for the first movie, but it is still a worthy sequel in more ways than one. Its predictable story is made up for by some truly funny performances, and even the over-the-top antics of some of its characters felt right at home. I don't see the film winning over any new fans, but it has certainly managed to please this one.

Friday, 26 February 2021

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson (Movie Review)

Films often spend a good bit of time trying to find a home after making their debuts at the various film festivals. This was certainly the case with The Obituary of Tunde Johnson, an American drama about a black gay boy named Tunde struggling to escape a fate that seems all but destined for him. Originally making its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019, it finally receives a simultaneous release in select theaters and video-on-demand platforms this weekend.

In The Obituary of Tunde Johnson, Steven Silver plays Tunde, a young black boy of Nigerian descent, who struggles with anxiety and depression, amongst other things. You see, Tunde is not only gay, but he is also caught in a love triangle between his childhood friend and her closeted boyfriend, Soren. On the night that he comes out as gay to his parents, both of whom appear to be supportive of the news, he is pulled over by police while driving to attend Soren's birthday party in celebration. 

It is immediately clear that Tunde is a victim of racial profiling, and despite doing everything he can to comply with the police officers, the incident would end with Tunde being killed. Except for Tunde, it wasn't the end at all, as he finds himself having to relieve that same day over and over again, with the same tragic outcome. But with each iteration of the day, he gradually develops the understanding and acceptance he needs to face his demons.

I have seen my fair share of movies with infinite time loops, but this is the first one I am seeing where the concept is used so effectively to explore the issues that plague a young black man in America. From racial profiling to police brutality, these are issues we hear about on the news, with far-reaching ramifications that often signal just how far we still have to go to become all-inclusive. And that it used them to further its narrative, and did that so well, is something that definitely needs to be applauded.

But at the center of the whole thing was of course Steven Silver, who owned the role of Tunde. He had also played Marcus in the Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, and while he was never quite one of the standouts on that show, he gets to shine brightly here. His range of emotions spoke of a boy that was struggling to find his place in a society where he clearly felt ostracized, with the time loop device allowing for more and more layers of his character to be peeled back as the movie progressed, taking viewers on as much a journey of self-discovery as that of its main character.

It's a shame then that the same praise cannot be given to the rest of the cast. As a Nigerian myself, it was a bit disappointing to see that the actors who played Tunde's parents didn't speak with anything remotely resembling a proper Nigerian accent. This is especially aggravating considering the large number of Nigerian actors out there in Hollywood, any of which would have given a more convincing performance. I mean, I even made a whole video about a number of them just last year. 

The film also often veered into the realm of teen melodrama, where it tended to lose focus of the larger issues it tries to tackle in favor of played-out high school tropes. But it thankfully never completely loses sight of those larger issues, and aside from these perceived problems, I have to say that The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is a real eye opener overall.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

I Care a Lot (Movie Review)

Rosamund Pikes steps back into familiar territory in the new dark comedy, I Care a Lot, a film for which she recently received a Best Actress nomination at the forthcoming Golden Globes. The movie was written and directed by J Blakeson, an English filmmaker best remembered for helming the YA sci-fi adaptation, The 5th Wave. Following a strong showing at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, his latest film makes its debut on both Netflix and Amazon Prime this weekend.

The film stars Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson, a woman who runs an elaborate scam where she gets the court to appoint her as guardian to wealthy senior citizens deemed no longer capable of taking care of themselves. She then proceeds to put them up in a retirement home where they have no contact with the outside world, while she profits by liquidating their assets.

But unbeknownst to Marla, her latest target is the mother of a Russian mobster (played by Peter Dinklage), and the woman had been in possession of some diamonds worth millions of dollars. And now her son is willing to go to any lengths to get both of them back, as Marla finds herself entangled in a battle of wits.

I Care a Lot is an exhilarating story about ruthless ambition and its consequences. The film is populated with characters operating within the dark side of a clearly flawed legal system, and as such, it was almost impossible for me to root for any single one of them. But I still found myself wanting to see the story through to its ending, just to see whether or not some due justice was going to get served.

The real highlight of course was Rosamond Pike, who once again channels a cold, diabolical side that is sure to leave viewers shaking in their seats, be that from fear or righteous anger. I still get chills when thinking of her performance from Gone Girl, and her performance here was every bit as strong and memorable. That said, Peter Dinklage also manages to hold his own, plus it was nice seeing the Game of Thrones alum after that show had left fans with a sour taste in their mouth.

The film was also stylishly put together, from its smooth editing to its synth-heavy soundtrack. My main gripe with the movie then stems from its overall identity crisis. I'm a fan of dark comedies, but this particular one was devoid of any real jokes, at least ones that landed or that I would consider memorable. As such, it settles into this awkward middle ground between a true comedy and a psychological thriller.

I Care a Lot skirts by off the strength of its lead star. Rosamund Pike has already proven herself to be an accomplished actress at this point, so whether or not she snags the Golden Globe this year shouldn't change any of that. Her latest film is just further proof of why she is one of the most talented actresses working in Hollywood today.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Namaste Wahala (Movie Review)

The Nigerian film industry, or Nollywood as it is more popularly referred to, produces more films on a yearly basis than the likes of Hollywood and China. It is in fact only bested by Bollywood, which produced just shy of 2,000 films in 2019 alone. Granted, most of those films were direct-to-video offerings made on a shoestring budget. But every now and then, we happen to get the occasional gem, or dare I say, guilty pleasure.

Now imagine what would happen if those two industries were to join forces. The answer, my friends, is Namaste Wahala, a cross-cultural romantic comedy debuting on Netflix this Valentine.

The movie stars Ini Dima-Okojie as Didi, a young lawyer who works at a family-owned law firm. Following a chance encounter with an attractive Indian man named Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz), the two fall helplessly in love with one another. But in a classic case of forbidden love, Raj is rejected by Chidinma's parents when she brings him home to meet them, while Chidinma herself is given a similar treatment by Raj's mum. Now the two star-crossed lovers must find a way to convince their families they were meant to be together.

I'll confess that I am not the biggest fan of Bollywood movies, with the likes of Slumdog Millionaire and Lion being the closest I have gotten to enjoying the depiction of Indian culture in film. Same goes for Nollywood movies, many of which I find too insufferable to sit through. All that is to say that I was fairly skeptical heading into Namaste Wahala, despite all the social media buzz it has received in the lead up to its release.

So how exactly is the film then you ask? Well, not too bad. I could even go as far as saying I was pleasantly surprised by it. That it not to say that it was the best thing since sliced bread. And the film definitely had its fair share of problems, several of which I would touch upon now.

Those of you that read my Wedding Party review already know how I feel about Richard Mofe Damijo and his acting, and not much has changed since then, so the less said about his acting here the better. Other notable appearances include Broda Shaggi, who played a hot-tempered cabdriver, as well as M.I., who played himself.

Prior to the movie's release, we heard a lot of news about the Chocolate City rapper handling the soundtrack of the movie. And if all that translated into was the rapper's song playing over a montage while he makes a tacked-on cameo appearance, then color me disappointed. At least the scene didn't overstay its welcome, so that's a plus.

The strength of any good romantic comedy though rests upon the chemistry between its two leads. And while both Ruslaan and Ini were competent enough in their roles, I still had a hard time buying into their love for one another. This wasn't exactly help by the fact that the romance between the two had escalated so quickly that some suspension of disbelief was required in order to fully buy into the whole thing.

I mean, Raj himself had alluded to the fact that he had charmed his way into her heart. It would have been nice to see how exactly.

The film definitely follows most of the tropes you'd expect to find in a romantic comedy, like the the best friend who provides most of the comic relief. Sadly, it also had all the classic Nollywood trappings as well, from overacted melodramatic scenes, to cheesy lines of dialogue and deliveries that have you laughing for all the wrong reasons.

I also had issues with how the film had managed its runtime. There was a sexual assault subplot that took up a large chunk of the movie's 1 hour 46 minutes length, and I felt this could have been used to better develop the core story and characters, or trimmed out completely, as it didn't really tie into the overall plot in any meaningful way. It did at least give us some of the most comically bad line deliveries when it arrived at its climax though. You'll know it when you hear it, and I guess this could count as another plus.

Namaste Wahala works best when viewed as a homage to the films of Nollywood and Bollywood, zits and all. The cheese factor was definitely stronger than I would have liked, but therein lies most of the film's appeal. That the film also has a strong overall message about cultures coming together, and true love transcending cultural barriers, makes it easy for me to recommend to anyone that enjoys feel-good romances. It's definitely worth checking out on Netflix.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Judas and the Black Messiah (Movie Review)

There seems to be no shortage of timely historical dramas of late, and the newest one to be gracing screens big and small is Judas and the Black Messiah. Produced by Ryan Coogler, the film is a dramatization of the events that took place in the late 1960s, in which the FBI managed to infiltrate the ranks of the Chicago branch of the Black Panther Party. Released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, the film is the latest one from the Warner Bros. 2021 slate to receive a same-day premiere.

The film stars Lakeith Stanfield as Bill O'Neal, a man caught trying to steal a car while impersonating an FBI agent. But rather than spend the next few years in prison for his crimes, he is given a choice to work with the actual FBI as an informant. His assignment is to infiltrate the Black Panther Party, by getting close to its chairman, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), an offer Bill accepts.

He slowly begins to work his way into his target's good graces, even rising to become his chief security officer. But as he becomes a greater part of the Black Panther family, he starts to feel conflicted about relaying their every move to his handler (Jesse Plemons). Now Bill must choose between fulfilling his promise to the FBI or going to prison for his crimes, or worse, risk getting exposed.

Judas and the Black Messiah is a captivating look back in history. It lays bare all the facts surrounding the events depicted with a razor-sharp accuracy seldom seen outside of the best documentaries. Like The Trial of the Chicago 7 before it, the movie also manages to capture the racially charged atmosphere of late 1960s America. That many of the themes it explores are still relevant today points to its timeliness and timelessness, and the director Shaka King's attention to detail.

His film is populated with characters operating within a moral grey area. But rather than try to demonize any of those characters or the institutions involved, the film goes for a far more nuanced approach. And most of that was made possible by some truly remarkable performances from both Kaluuya and Stanfield. The former might be getting most of the praise right now, but it was actually Lakeith Stanfield's turn as Bill that left a greater impression in my opinion.

Everything from his troubled mannerisms to his quiet delivery spoke of a man that was being eaten up from the inside by the consequences of his actions. I was also happy to see Dominique Fishback once again at the top of her acting game. We last saw her in the Netflix film, Project Power, and she once again proves herself to be quite a capable actress.

Overall, Judas and the Black Messiah is a movie that needs to be experienced one way or another. So whether you choose to do so in theaters or at home on HBO Max, you're guaranteed to be met with some truly top-tier storytelling.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Minari (Movie Review)

In my quest for complete Oscars readiness, I finally managed to see Minari, one of the last remaining movies for me to watch before the big ceremony in April. The film has been generating a lot of awards season buzz, not to mention some outcry after it was relegated to the foreign language category of the forthcoming Golden Globes Awards. So, of course, I just had to see what all the noise was about. What follows are my unbiased thoughts about the film.

Set in the 1980s, the movie tells the story of a family of Koreans trying to make a place for themselves in rural Arkansas. The patriarch, Jacob (Steven Yeun), has just bought the acres of land they now call home, where he intends to start a farm, much to the displeasure of his wife, Monica (Han Ye-ri). Her objection mainly stems from their new home's distance to the newest hospital, which is a major concern as they have a 5-year-old son with a heart condition to consider.

But the family slowly settles into their new life on the farm, with both Jacob and Monica taking up jobs at a nearby chicken hatchery. To help with the kids while they are away, Jacob arranges to have Monica's mum (Youn Yuh-jung) come over from Korea to live with them. Despite that, Monica becomes increasingly concerned as Jacob seems to be investing all their money into the farm, rather than the core needs of the family. And with things on the farm failing to go according to plan, Jacob soon finds himself having to decide which was most important to him.

To answer the question I know you've been asking yourself since the start of this review: Yes, Minari is worthy of every bit of praise it has gotten since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival one year ago. But even more than that, it is a film worth experiencing. The story is relatable in a way you don't often find in smaller-scale dramas, with its focus on each member of the Yi family, and their day-to-day struggles in the less-than-ideal, new environment they find themselves in.

Because of this, the film is several things at several points during its runtime: it is a family drama, a comedy, a cautionary tale, and a coming-of-age story. And that all those aspects of the film manage to stay rolled into one cohesive whole is testament to the writing and direction of Lee Isaac Chung. The film also boasts some truly memorable performances, from Steven Yeun as Jacob (who has definitely come a long way since his stint as Glen on The Walking Dead), to Will Patton, who plays a farm hand and was responsible for most of the film's comic relief.

Minari is ultimately a movie about doing whatever it takes to succeed. The film paints a beautiful portrait of the life of hardship many foreigners often face in their pursuit of the American dream. It is currently the frontrunner to win Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes in my opinion, and I can also see it managing to score a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, amongst other nominations.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Malcolm & Marie (Movie Review)

Netflix seems to be really doubling down on its love for black and white movies lately. Just last year, we got both The Forty-Year-Old Version and Mank, two very different yet equally brilliant films about struggling artists navigating their way through their respective industries. The latter would even go on to score some big nominations at the forthcoming Golden Globes. And now we have Malcolm & Marie, an emotional rollercoaster of a film starring Zendaya and John David Washington.

The latter plays Malcolm, an up-and-coming film director whose latest movie just had its Hollywood premiere, while the former plays Marie, his girlfriend. Having just returned from what was an otherwise successful first showing for his film, the couple intend to spend the rest of the evening together, waiting for the first reviews to show up online. But what was meant to be a night of celebration quickly turns tempestuous when bottled up feelings are let loose, threatening to derail their plans.

Anyone going into Malcolm & Marie expecting a feel-good romance would most likely come out of it feeling sorely disappointed. Despite being billed as such, the film threads the lines of something closer to a psychological drama than a romantic one, despite having romance elements. Basically, if your idea of a good time is watching a couple get into back-to-back arguments over the course of one night, then boy are you in for a treat. But chances are that is not the case, which is why the movie might feel like a bit of a drag for most.

Both John David Washington and Zendaya prove to be charismatic leads though, with the actors holding their own and ensuring that the movie never became less than intriguing. But they were ultimately letdown by a story that couldn't seem to decide what it was trying to say for much of its run-time. One moment the film could be attempting to dissect the core issues at the heart of the couple's relationship, the next it turns its focus on Hollywood and its need for political correctness in this day and age.

This lent the movie a rather jumbled up message that never became any clearer as the movie went along. That said, I did really enjoy whenever it touched upon the disparities between an artist's vision and a reviewer's interpretation of that work. I just wish those discussions had been had in a much better context, and not in the shadow of a relationship that seemed to be heading for the rocks.

Another aspect of the movie I really enjoyed was its cinematography, from smooth tracking shots that always ensured both actors were in frame when they needed to be, to closeups that really served to heighten their emotions as their arguments heated up. The movie itself was shot during the coronavirus lockdowns, and it shows, with its single-location setting and dialogue-heavy screenplay. But the way it was presented, in stunning black and white, made certain that it was never anything short of captivating.

Malcolm & Marie is far from what I would call essential viewing. It is certainly not a feel-good romance. But that is not an inherently bad thing as it paints a picture of a more realistic romance that was oftentimes relatable. The movie is definitely worth checking out on the strength of its two leads alone. Just don't expect the kind of gratification you'd get from your typical romantic fare.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

The Little Things (Movie Review)

Warner Bros. continues to make good on its promise to release all its tentpoles for the next year simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. And while we all await the impending release of Godzilla vs Kong in March, the first movie to be coming out off its highly-publicized slate is The Little Things, a crime thriller starring Denzel Washington. Written and directed by John Lee Hancock, the film offers a throwback mystery that might prove to be more style than substance for most.

Set in the 1990s, Denzel Washington plays Joe Deacon, a Kern County Deputy Sheriff who is sent back to his former LA district to retrieve some evidence that would help with an ongoing case. And while he is there, he comes across a hotshot detective named Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), who is currently working a case with a serial killer that has an MO quite similar to an unsolved murder case Deacon had worked on in the past. 

Both men immediately appear to have a shared respect and disdain for one another, with each one trying to one-up the other. But with more victims turning up dead by the day, and a prime suspect (played by Jared Leto) that always seems to be one step ahead of the authorities, they must learn to put aside their differences and work together if they hope on closing the case once and for all.

The Little Things is one of those films that sounds great on paper, but falls flat in its execution. It had all the intrigue and mystery you'd expect to find in a crime thriller, but none of the payoff or satisfaction offered by the better films in the genre. This is not to say that the film offers no thrills at all, as I was at the very least mildly engaged while following along.

It was just that the whole thing somehow managed to lose most of its steam by the time it arrived at its third act, where in an attempt to circumvent expectations, it presented a twist that most viewers would find head-scratching to say the least. There were no gaping plot holes to speak of, just a feeling that you've arrived at a destination that wasn't all that meaningful in the grand scheme of things.

What The Little Things does offer is a somewhat promising start to the packed slate of movies Warner Bros. plans on releasing this year. But while it definitely benefitted from its strong cast and a solid overall atmosphere, those elements were ultimately letdown by a story that was by the numbers, and a resolution that was unsatisfying. The movie is hardly worth going out to see at the cinema, but it is still worth checking out if you happen to have HBO Max.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Nomadland (Movie Review)

As we get closer to this year's Golden Globes and Oscars, one film that keeps coming up in discussions about potential hopefuls is Nomadland. The movie made a splash last year when it received top honors at both the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, besting other critical darlings like One Night in Miami. It would go on to appear on several year-end lists of best films of 2020, even managing to come out on top on quite a few of them.

So all through the praise and accolades, I'd patiently waited for an opportunity to see Nomadland, wondering if it could ever live up to my incredibly high expectations. I finally got to do so this past weekend, which raises the question of why I am only just putting out this review now. There's a very strong reason for that, which I'll be addressing in the latter portion of this review, along with my overall thoughts about the movie.

Written and directed by ChloĆ© Zhao, the movie stars Frances McDormand as Fern, a woman that adopts a nomad lifestyle by selling all her belongings and using the money to buy an RV, after she loses both her job and husband. She gets a temporary job at an Amazon fulfillment center, where she meets and befriends Linda, and from whom she learns about a gathering of nomads that meet in the Arizona desert every winter. 

Much of the film is spent following Fern around the empty highways of the American West, as she slowly contemplates her life and the choices that led to where she is. But on those highways is where she'd encounter several characters that would help shape her journey of acceptance and self-discovery.

Nomadland is both a character study and a window into the lives of those that uproot themselves from already established lives with the singular hope of starting out fresh. Frances McDormand, who has given quite a number of stellar performances over the years, gives one of her best ones till date. But it is the characters she encounters in the movie, and how she interacts with them, that truly stands out in my opinion. 

The fact that most of these characters were played by real-life nomads lends the movie a certain level of authenticity seldom seen in such films. We've had similar techniques used in movies like City of God and Up in the Air, where much of the cast is made up of real-life people, and the technique pays off in spades here. The latter in particular has a stronger thematic connection with this one, since both films are set in the aftermath of the American recession.

Like I said at the start of the review, I've been sitting on this review for Nomadland for a couple of days now. This is news because I typically try to review movies right after seeing them, but something about Nomadland was different. The film almost demands that you spend some time ruminating on its story, themes and larger-than-life characters, which is something I've found myself doing this last couple of days. The movie definitely sticks with you well past the credits.

There are other things to love about Nomadland, from its beautiful cinematography to ChloƩ Zhao's capable hands as a director. But I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that the movie might not be for everyone. It doesn't offer the kind of instant gratification that most films provide these days, with its leisurely-paced narrative and strong character focus. But if you're willing to accept that going in, then what you'll discover is something wholly captivating.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

News of the World (Movie Review)

As I continue to play catch up with the films released over the weekend, the next one on my review list is News of the World, a western co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass. The Academy Award-nominated director once again teams up with Tom Hanks for the movie, following their previous collaboration in the brilliant Captain Phillips. And this time around, they swap the pirate-infested waters of the Atlantic Ocean for the rolling hills and valleys of the American frontier.

In News of the World, Tom Hank stars as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kid, a former confederate soldier who now travels from town to town reading the news for a living. Basically he does so for the benefit of those not learned enough to read the newspapers for themselves, or those whose lives have proven too busy to afford them the time during a typical work day. So in a way, you can think of him as the Wild West equivalent of a modern day newscaster.

During one of his trips, he comes across a young girl whose horse and carriage had been attacked. The girl is immediately reluctant to accept his help. This isn't helped by the fact that she didn't appear to speak a single word of English. He soon discovers that the girl was being transported to her last surviving relatives prior to the attack. But all attempts to leave the girl in the hands of relevant authorities prove futile, and now he is left with no choice other than to embark on a perilous journey across Texas in an attempt to reunite the young girl with her family.

Chances are that anyone planning to see the News of the World is doing so solely because of its bankable lead, so it should come as no surprise that Tom Hanks once again proves to be more than capable in the role. So the real breakout then was his co-star Helena Zengel, who plays Johanna Leonberger. She perfectly captures the spirit of a young feral child caught between two worlds, and the fact that she managed to convey such a broad spectrum of emotions with barely any spoken dialogue is worthy of praise. 

Also worthy of praise was the cinematography on display, which effectively captured both the beauty and horrors of the American frontier. This was no doubt helped by the film's director, Paul Greengrass, who has proven to have an eye for such details. There were plenty sweeping shots of beautiful landscapes, as well as tight closeups of the character's faces, whenever the action called for that. And the transitions between the two was always smooth and seamless.

With all that said, my one area of criticism was the movie's pacing. The movie takes a somewhat leisurely approach with the unraveling of its plot, and for large stretches of time, all we really get to go with are the aforementioned sweeping shots and landscapes. I understand that this is meant to help build a sense of atmosphere, which is especially useful in such a character-driven narrative. But I'm also concerned that this could be considered off-putting for some viewers.

News of the World is a western that might prove a little too familiar to fans of the genre. The comparisons with True Grit are inevitable, with both movies centering upon a road trip of sorts, wherein an older, seasoned gunslinger accompanies a young girl across the Old West on a singular mission. Except unlike that other movie, the characters in this one aren't driven by a thirst for revenge, but rather an opportunity to move on and heal from past traumas.

Monday, 18 January 2021

One Night in Miami (Movie Review)

Regina King makes her feature film directorial debut in One Night in Miami, a film that seemed to be garnering nothing but praise ever since it made its debut at the Venice Film Festival last September. Based on a stage play written by Kemp Powers, the movie was noted for being the first one in the festival's history to be helmed by an African-American woman, where it eventually got named the runner up for its People's Choice Award. 

All that is to say that the movie had been on my radar for quite some time now. I even flirted with the idea of waiting to see it before compiling my list of Top 10 Movies of 2020, but decided I might as well consider it for my 2021 list instead. And despite getting a limited release in theaters last Christmas, I didn't get an opportunity to see the movie until it got released on Amazon Prime Video this past weekend.

Set on the historic night of Muhammad Ali's heavyweight title victory against Sonny Liston, the film explores a celebratory meeting between him and three other African-American legends of the time: Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Malcolm X. But rather than spend the night drinking and cavorting with women, he soon discovers that Malcolm had other more important plans.

It was to be a night of reflection, with each man expected to look back on their accomplishments up until that point. And by so doing, gain some insight about their place in the present day struggle of African Americans. But tensions soon begin to rise amongst the men when Malcolm accuses Sam of not using his influence and power to help that struggle, even as he grows increasingly paranoid that there were people out to get him.

One Night in Miami is a beautiful slice of alternative history that is brought to life by some powerhouse performances. All four actors got to shine in their respective roles, but it was perhaps Leslie Odom Jnr. that could be regarded the standout. His portrayal of Sam Cooke was every bit as electrifying as his role in Hamilton, and he had his full acting and singing chops on display.

I'll be remiss if I fail to also mention Regina King's direction. The woman has been in quite a few critically acclaimed movies over the years, and was most recently seen in the brilliant Watchmen TV show on HBO. But here she proves that her talent extends behind the camera as well. And the fact that her movie was so grounded in history lends it a sense of authenticity seldom seen in such films.

One Night in Miami is a must-watch for history buffs. The movie definitely had all the trappings of a stage play adaptation, with its dialogue heavy screenplay and sparse location changes. But it never truly felt confined by those origins. The movie is a definite shoo-in for one of the Best Picture nominations at the Oscar's later this year, and it stands as one of the best films of the year thus far. 

Friday, 15 January 2021

Outside the Wire (Movie Review)

As the new year slowly kicks into gear, Netflix continues to strengthen its commitment to provide quality at-home entertainment during these unprecedented times we still find ourselves in. And that commitment was made public after the company had announced that it would be releasing more than 70 movies over the course of this year. Outside the Wire is just one of those 70 films, a science fiction war movie starring Anthony Mackie.

Set in the near future in the middle of a Soviet civil war, the movie follows Lt. Thomas Harp (Damson Idris), a US drone pilot that is sent into the field after he'd initiated an unauthorized drone strike that resulted in the deaths of two fellow soldiers. Expected to find a renewed value for life after his exposure to on-the-ground warfare, Thomas is assigned to a commanding officer named Leo (Anthony Mackie), a man he quickly finds out is not a man at all.

Leo is an android designed by the US Army to help with the ongoing efforts to win back the war-torn region of Ukraine. Unlike the other robots being used in the war, he is distinctly human in appearance, and has an uncanny ability to feel human emotions. It is that ability that drives his mission, and together with Thomas, they must go behind enemy lines as they attempt to track down a local warlord before he gets his hands on enough nuclear missiles to start World War III.

The best thing about Outside the Wire was easily Anthony Mackie, who is no stranger to Netflix productions of this kind, having starred in the lead role of the second season of the now-cancelled sci-fi show, Altered Carbon. Here he brings most of the charisma and charm he'd displayed in that show, as well as the physicality required for such an action heavy role. But he also never failed to display the level of emotion needed to keep the action grounded in reality.

And that's another area where the movie excels, in its action scenes. There was no shortage of hand-to-hand combat and gunfights to be had, some of which involved robots and future tech, all of which looked convincing enough. So action junkies will definitely want to check out the movie for that reason alone, even though I fear that more casual audiences might become a bit desensitized towards all the fancy explosions after a while.

And speaking of becoming desensitized, the one area where I felt the movie could've used some improvement was its story, or more precisely its resolution. We've had countless movies about future wars at this point, and I was really hoping that this one would at least bring something new to the table. But what we got instead was a barely serviceable story with a final act that was a bit too twisty for my tastes.

Regardless of this, I still think Outside the Wire can serve as a mild diversion for anyone looking for something to check out on Netflix. It might be nowhere as brilliant as the likes of Edge of Tomorrow, but should still offer enough entertainment value for anyone that happens to enjoy such movies.

Monday, 4 January 2021

My Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies for 2021

Happy New Year, everyone. And a new year means new movies to look forward to, or in this case a bunch of carryovers from last year. 2020 left us with a good amount of unreleased movies, but with the current shift by big studios like Disney and Warner Bros. to online streaming (not to mention talks of a coronavirus vaccine being closer than we think), there's more likelihood that a good chunk of those movies would finally get to see the light of day.

All that is to say that my list of Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies for 2021 looks a lot like my list for 2020. But I'm fairly optimistic (read: hopeful) that these films would not only get released in one form or another this year, but that they'll live up to expectations as well. Because there's nothing worse than having to wait an extra year for something that turns out to be less than stellar. So in the spirit of that optimism, here are my Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2021.

10. F9

While I don't consider myself the biggest fan of the long-running Fast and the Furious series, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at the very least curious to see what ridiculous new heights they intend to take the series for its ninth outing. There's even talk of taking the action to space, which sounds par for the course given the current trajectory of the franchise as a whole. But with Tokyo Drift favorites like Han said to be making a return, and the addition of another wrestling icon into the mix, the film promises to be tailor-made for fans and the morbidly curious alike.

9. Morbius

So I originally had the Venom sequel, Venom II: Let There Be Carnage, taking this particular slot on my list from last year. But in the absence of any trailers or new information about that movie (aside from a change in release dates), my interest has drifted towards the other forthcoming Sony Pictures superhero movie, Morbius. And with Jared Leto taking on the role of the brilliant scientist turned vampire, and Michael Keaton believed to be reprising his role as Vulture from Spider-Man: Homecoming, I'm eager to see how the movie ties into the larger Sony Spider-Man universe.

8. Raya and the Last Dragon

Pixar will continue to churn out some quality family entertainment this year when Raya and the Last Dragon hits both theaters and Disney+. This is following the truncated release of Onward at the start of the pandemic, as well as the more recent debut of Soul this Christmas. Initially slated for a November 25th release last year, the movie would be joining its growing library of content on Disney+ on March 5th, through a premier access model similar to the one used for the release of Mulan a few months ago.

7. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

As much as I tried to enjoy the 2016 all-female reboot of Ghostbusters, it was glaringly obvious that the movie paled in comparison to the high benchmark already set by the original two films. Thankfully, Ghostbusters: Afterlife looks like the massive course correction that the franchise needs right now. And by course correction I am referring to the mere fact that the movie's trailer doesn't even seem to acknowledge the existence of that other movie.

6. Coming 2 America

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall would be reprising their roles from the 1988 comedy film, Coming to America, in its aptly titled sequel, Coming 2 America. Originally scheduled for an August 7th release, the film was eventually picked up by Amazon amidst the pandemic and it is currently set to debut on Amazon Prime Video on the 5th of March. The original film was such an endearing hit with Eddie Murphy fans and fans of comedies in general, so much like Bill and Ted: Face the Music managed to do last year, this one is also hoping to recapture some of that old magic.

5. Black Widow

Having gone more than a solid year without any new MCU movies, all eyes are currently on Black Widow to offer the much-needed superhero fix fans so crave. The year-long delay might end up working in the movie's favor, since it also offered fans an equally-needed respite after both the climactic Avengers: Endgame and the Phase 3 closer, Spider-Man: Far from Home. And with other MCU films like Shang-Chi, The Eternals and the next Spider-Man movie all slated for release this year, this one should hopefully help kickstart what is already shaping up to be a packed Phase 4.

4. No Time to Die

Daniel Craig's final outing as James Bond (hopefully) comes out this year in the form of the 25th film in the franchise, No Time to Die. It is hard to believe he has been playing the character for more than 14 years now, twice as long as Pierce Brosnan's tenure as the character. Those initial protests we all had when he was originally cast seem decidedly foolish now, but I still can't help but wonder who would be taking up the mantle next, and what direction the series as a whole might be heading into, two question that would hopefully get answered by the end of No Time to Die.

3. The Suicide Squad

DC fans got their first look at the forthcoming Suicide Squad sequel/reboot, The Suicide Squad, during last year's DC FanDome event. And if that sneak peek was anything to go by, the film looks like it would be taking the franchise into a wild, new direction. The film is being helmed by James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, so we can expect some of the humor from that other film to be reflected in this one. It also brings back fan favorite characters like Harley Quinn from the first movie, while also introducing a fresh rooster of DC baddies that include King Shark, Peacemaker and Bloodsport.

2. Dune

The first part of Denis Velleneuve's adaptation of the novel, Dune, was delayed from its original December 18th date, all the way to October 1st this year (bumping the forthcoming Robert Pattison Batman movie in the process). And while it was a bit disappointing that it didn't manage to stick to that release date, we did get our first look at the movie through a trailer that was released in October last year. The film looks like it would have the director's flair for breathtaking visuals, as well as the source material's epic scale, on full display. And with a simultaneous release currently being planned on HBO Max, this is one I'd definitely opt to see on the big screen.

1. A Quiet Place Part II

A part of me is still kind of pained that I didn't get to see A Quiet Place Part II last year. This is especially true considering how close we had gotten to the film's release date before the pandemic hit with full force. The rest is history at this point, but I'd be lying if I said any of my excitement for the movie had waned since then. Which is why it holds the distinction of being my most anticipated movie for two years in a row. Hopefully things works out better for the film's release this time around, and we finally get to see it in theaters or on video-on-demand.

Overall, 2021 looks like it could be a solid year for movies, looking at the current slate of films expected to release within the year. But the truth remains that we are still very much in the middle of a global pandemic, so some release dates are subject to change while some movies might even get pushed further into 2022. In the absence of such changes though, what movie(s) are you looking forward to the most in 2021?