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.

Friday 13 May 2022

The Northman (Movie Review)

After making a stunning directorial debut with The Witch in 2015, Robert Eggers returns to helm The Northman, his most ambitious project yet. The historical epic is said to have cost somewhere north of $70 million to make, a huge jump from the shoestring budgets behind his two previous films. But does all that additional money translate into a better movie, or does his latest film get bogged down by the conventions of blockbuster filmmaking?

The film is loosely based upon the legend of Amleth, a Viking prince on a quest for vengeance. Having witnessed his father die at the hands of his uncle, he vows to save his mother from his evil clutches and to bring bloody retribution to the usurper. But it would appear that the gods have greater things in store for Amleth, and he'll be forced to choose between fulfilling that destiny or carrying out his revenge on those who have wronged him and anyone standing in his way. 

From the moment I first caught wind of The Northman, it looked like a film with heaps of potential. Not only was it being helmed by one of the freshest visionaries working in Hollywood today, but it also had him stepping outside of his comfort zone to tackle something that looked very grand in its ambitions. But don't let its big-budget aspirations fool you; The Northman is still an arthouse film at its core. This is not a knock on the film or its marketing by the way, just my way of attempting to help set realistic expectations. 
Its classic revenge tale is interspersed with plenty of surrealist imagery, and the action takes a back seat in favor of beautiful shot compositions. All these things work together to lend the film a visual identity that has Robert Eggers' fingerprints all over it. Even the dialogue and the actors' deliveries bring to mind his prior work on both The Witch and The Lighthouse. And much like those films, this latest one has a supernatural element that has you questioning what is real or make believe.

Speaking of actors, the film has a stellar ensemble that features past collaborators like Anya Taylor-Joy and Willem Dafoe, as well as Alexander SkarsgÄrd, Nicole Kidman, and Ethan Hawke. Each one goes above and beyond with their performances, helping elevate the material past the appeal of a typical revenge flick.

Gore hounds would also be pleased to know that the film wears its R-rating like a badge of honor. This is a movie about Vikings after all, doing Viking stuff and generally being loud and aggressive. There are more than a few decapitations and disembowelments sprinkled throughout the film but it never becomes needlessly excessive.

The Northman marks yet another win for Robert Eggers, proving that he can just as easily excel at big-budget productions. It is easy to see where all the money went with its high production values and mesmerizing visuals. Its violence and artful approach might not be to everyone's taste, but its brisk pacing and easy-to-follow story should ensure that it stays captivating enough for everyone else.

Friday 6 May 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Movie Review)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues its expansion into realms unknown in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Billed as the MCU's first true stab at horror, they'd picked what many felt was the perfect director to bring this darker side of the universe to the big screen. But does Sam Raimi manage to do justice to the material, or is this perhaps another misstep in the highly-beloved franchise.

The film picks up after the former Sorcerer Supreme's shenanigans in Spider-Man: No Way Home. But in terms of overall continuity, the movie has closer ties with the first Doctor Strange film and his involvement in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, as well as WandaVision and certain story beats from Marvel's What If...? Because of this, the aforementioned stories seem like required viewing in order to fully grasp what is going on here.

In terms of the film's actual plot though, it is hard to discuss any of it without immediately falling into spoiler territory. I'm still shocked by how much of it was already revealed in the trailers. But believe me when I say that none of that is enough to prepare you for the true scope of the film, which goes beyond anything you could've imagined. There are plenty of twists along the way and the fact that they were able to condense all that storytelling into two hours is a feat in itself.

So I'll just jump right into my thoughts about the film, which I thought was amazing. Or to put it in another way, the film was every bit as wild and bonkers as its trailers promised, and then some. It delves into areas of Marvel lore that have seldom been explored outside of the comic books, showing once again that Kevin Feige and his writers still have a vast sea of material to craft stories from.

It also paints a bright picture for the future of the MCU, with crowd-pleasing cameos that hint at great things to come down the road ahead. And speaking of paint and pictures, Multiverse of Madness is easily the most visually-striking film in the MCU, managing to outdo the already mind-bending first Doctor Strange movie at every turn. 

Sam Raimi really goes all in with the otherworldly depictions of the various beings and creatures that call the darkest recesses of the multiverse home, lending the film his signature touch and never shying away from becoming too scary or graphic with its violence. It might not be a straight-up horror film but this is as close to horror as the MCU has ever managed to get, and I am here for it.

I do indeed need to also touch upon the stars of the whole thing. It is, after all, still a Doctor Strange movie. Both Elizabeth Olsen and Benedict Cumberbatch give what is perhaps their best performances as their respective characters since they'd set foot in the MCU, while Xochitl Gomez makes a memorable debut as America Chavez. It was also nice seeing both Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor reprise their roles from the first film, and Benedict Wong gets to shine like never before.

It is almost tempting for me to end the review here and declare that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a perfect film. But if I'm to point out any perceived flaws in its storytelling, then it's the fact that the film often felt too overstuffed for its two-hour runtime. It is also worth mentioning that the horror elements might not be to everyone's taste, especially families with younger children who'd grown to love these characters over the course of the previous films. But if you're a fan of Sam Raimi and his work on past films like Evil Dead and Drag Me to Hell, then there's plenty to love about this one.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a treat for the eyes and senses. But even more than that, it is one of those rare sequels that manages to upstage its original. I haven't been this thoroughly entertained by a Sam Raimi film since Spider-Man 2. The director once again proves why his unique sensibilities work so well in the context of a comic book movie, and it is that vision that carries his latest film through in the end.