Week Of 09.05.2021 Movie Reviews
Reviewing Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, Cinderella, Worth, The Tomorrow War, And The Boss Baby: Family Business
- S Grade; 5.0 Stars: The Best Film One Has Seen For The Year
- A+/A- Grade; 4.0/4.5 Stars: One Of The Best Films Of The Year, If Not All-Time
- B+/B- Grade; 3.0/3.5 Stars: Worth A Trip To The Theatre For First Viewing
- C+/C- Grade; 2.0/2.5 Stars: Watch From Home For First Viewing
- D+/D- Grade; 1.0/1.5 Stars: Don’t Bother Watching This At All If You Can Help It
- F Grade; 0.5 Star: One Of The Worst Films Of All-Time
- Reminder: Reviews For These Films Can Change Over Time And Will Be Reflected Over At Our Letterboxd
- The Plot: Shang-Chi must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.
- The Review: Finally here we are with a brand new character with a brand new origin story from the MCU! After years of nothing but ties to the now two years finished Infinity Saga that I’ve been beyond ready to get past from, and a BLACK WIDOW film that left me feeling like it was low-tier MCU and a false start to kick off Phase 4, we can really begin a new era! And look at that - Critics, “Film Twitter”, the Letterboxd crowd, and general mainstream audiences seem to be having a blast with the film! But with the MCU becoming so formulaic of late, can it provide us anything past yet another predictable origin story? Or am I asking too much after being blown away by THE SUICIDE SQUAD which showed you can still break all the rules with these comic book properties?
Well, I can report for myself that this is subjectively the best MCU film since AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR for me. The villain is the most nuanced since we got Thanos in that one (I thought he devolved to just a plot device in AVENGERS: ENDGAME), the film introduces new characters alongside new lore for the MCU that was so damn refreshing as someone who was getting bored with the same old from the franchise, the comedy is on point, the characters each have their own arcs, some surprises hit well, the fight choreography is amazing, the finale features K**** action which I'm always down for, and you leave the film wanting to see more of this new world for the cinematic universe. It really is a blast of a film that's meant to be seen with a trip to the local theatre. A true popcorn flick.
And yet...the film does have some sins that I find a tad hard to ignore. Its pacing does have some issues at times, as has come to be expected from these MCU films there's certain set of rules and formulas it follows to frustrating effect, the finale is a big CGI fest that will make some squirm, and the movie has a little too much ties to the other MCU properties that feel a bit forced fed down your throat and took me out of the film a few times. I understand this is cinematic universe, but its really getting crowded now and I don't need to be constantly reminded in an origin story. Even the Monsterverse doesn't go through this much trouble linking their films, and when the Dark Universe did it was rightfully called out in their one film.
Still this was a significantly better kick off to Phase 4 than BLACK WIDOW proved to be. It does give us something new to sink our teeth into and a great MCU villain (A rarity). Its easily one of the MCU's best origin stories. But it also doesn't really break any new ground and doesn't dare break any rules. After seeing THE SUICIDE SQUAD, I'm gonna' need the MCU to take it to a new level past just the new characters and lore. I need stakes and to feel like the characters aren't safe or that it'll always lead to the same story beats as other films. Its got to break out of the formulaic storytelling. B+ for SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. The best MCU film in years...but we're not talking THE DARK KNIGHT or GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY tier here either.
- The Plot: A modern movie musical take on the classic fairytale of the orphaned girl with an evil stepmother. Our ambitious heroine has big dreams, and with the help of her Fab Godmother, she perseveres to make them come true.
- The Review: To say this film is getting a bad rap would be an understatement. A questionable PR move to have stars of the film pull off a flash dance in the middle of LA traffic lead to the movie getting the worst marketing heading into a weekend where the originally meant for theatres turned streaming day one film (Though some local theatres will be playing it) will be going up against a brand new MCU box office monster. The reception has been pretty awful from the the “Film Twitter” hive and negative to middling from critics and the Letterboxd crowd. However general audiences seem to be having a blast with it if Rotten Tomatoes is an indication?
I came into this expecting to hate it and there was plenty for me not to like. The film’s musical numbers just don’t work either because they overstay their welcome or the decision to make them jukebox songs makes them come off like random and cringe karaoke in the middle of a separate film. The movie’s writing could have used some re-drafts, particularly certain moments that felt like they were supposed to be a commentary on female empowerment but just came off clumsy at times in how they tried to incorporate that to the fairy tale in a way the 2019 ALADDIN pulled off much better. And the romance here is pretty thin, the 2015 CINDERELLA pulled it off much better in attempting to modernize that part of the story.
But I have to say while I didn’t like this…I didn’t hate it either. The costume design, the production sets, the ensemble going all in with the material, and the ambition of the whole thing did have its charms. Every time I was ready to loathe this movie, I saw glimpses of something better. And while for the most part I wasn’t crazy about the musical numbers, they did have their moments as well.
I would’ve been much more angry with this movie had I had to see this at a theatre, but overall I think this was an okay to mediocre time waster you can pop on via your Amazon Prime subscription. I didn’t hate this, but I didn’t like it. C+ for CINDERELLA. A musical remake we didn’t need…but I feel like this could have been a lot worse at the same time.
- The Plot: Kenneth Feinberg, a powerful DC lawyer appointed Special Master of the 9/11 Fund, fights off the cynicism, bureaucracy, and politics associated with administering government funds and in doing so discovers what life is worth.
- The Review: I had no clue this film existed up until about a month back when the trailer started hitting the web, and then a revelation that the film had actually played in a past festival but garnered no real attention from critics coming out of it. The trailer teased a SPOTLIGHT like film and featured some top stars like Keaton, Tucci, and Ryan; so I was a bit taken aback this wasn’t in the Oscars conversation in any way. Well, I think I can see why after seeing it for myself even though I really liked this.
The film works best in the re-telling of the stories of these victims’ families and their attempt to cope with losing their loved ones, the drama of what a life is actually worth, and the injustices that lead to some not having proper compensation, and not to mention pretty decent to really good performances from the ensemble - especially Tucci and Ryan. You can see glimpses in this of an Oscar worthy film had things just been polished up with one more draft and some changes in how to tell this story.
The problems with the film that have likely lead to it not living up to Oscars’ aspirations and instead landed it as a Fall Netflix straight to streamer is that its storytelling eventually becomes very predictable and standard in a way that shifts you away from the real-life aspect to this story and more towards the dramatic liberties cinemas has been known to go for in these circumstances. Researching the real life figures afterwards, I get the sense of a lot of polishing to make this a more clear cut crowd pleaser drama than the more tense, dour, and cynical beats of how things played out in the real world. Not to mention Keaton tries out a New York accent that is distracting throughout the whole film.
That said even with how blatant in its dramatic liberties it was, I did really like this even to the point it was a borderline A for me. There’s an awards bait film in this that gets lost in the typical Hollywood makeup of these dramatic “based on a true story” movies. B+ for WORTH. It doesn’t quite reach loved it status, but it comes pretty close thanks to the effective and emotional subject matter at hand.
- The Plot: An ordinary family man named Dan Forester is recruited by time travelers from 30 years into the future to fight in a deadly war against aliens.
- The Review: Have been lazy to get to this one even though it made a pretty big splash over July 4th weekend with a ton of comparisons to INDEPENDENCE DAY. I’ve heard from many the film’s first half starts strong before an unnecessarily long climax hits that made the second half less palatable for them. Having seen the film for myself now I have to say I thought the movie’s quality was consistent as an okay to decent action sci-fi that entertains even though its hampered by some really major flaws.
This film’s writing is beyond mediocre at times, and I found myself cringing at just how overly predictable and bland the story beats could be. The comedic relief moments came off as a bit too much and never fitting their scenes, and the drama moments were less impactful given how forced and hurried the pacing was - especially in that first act. There’s also a lot of moments that ask you to suspend your disbelief in a way that even I couldn’t without finding myself saying aloud, “Wow, that’s fake as hell.” And while I didn’t feel the second half shifted downwards for me, I did feel like the movie was ultimately one of those that overstays its welcome a bit by the finale.
That all said, I’d be lying if I didn’t appreciate the incredible creature effects in this, liked some of the action sequences, found myself on the edge of my seat in a scene or two, or that I wasn’t waiting to see how it would end. For all the bad writing, hurried pacing, flat comedic and drama moments, etc I still generally was entertained enough that had I seen this at a theatre I wouldn’t be complaining too much over the inconveniences that come with a trip to the cinemas these days. I didn’t really like to love this, but I didn’t not like it either. It did its job better than other films I’ve seen this year with similar sub-genres. A soft B- for THE TOMORROW WAR. Definitely worth a watch on Prime if you’re a sci-fi movie fan looking for something original, even if this ain’t no new masterpiece or classic either.
- The Plot: The Templeton brothers, Tim and his Boss Baby little bro Ted, have become adults and drifted apart. But a new boss baby with a cutting edge approach and a can do attitude is about to bring them together again - and inspire a new family business.
- The Review: I don’t think its too much of a hot take to regard the first Boss Baby film as being a forgettable and mediocre animated film that got the ire of many when it somehow ended up being a box office success that also pulled off an unexpected nomination at the Oscars for Best Animated Feature over better received animated films that year. And yet the movie was a critical failure getting mixed to negative reviews from critics and even mainstream audiences who are usually less cool towards such films.
Enter the sequel released earlier this year during July 4th weekend which happened to get the same mixed reviews from critics but was much better accepted by mainstream audiences. And I have to say as someone who derides the first as a forgettable C range flick, I think I side with the audiences on this one as well. This was a massive pleasant surprise to me as someone who has been avoiding getting around to this sequel.
Don’t get me wrong the film has flaws - some pacing that makes the story feel too rushed even with a climax that overstays its welcome, some questionable dialogue and character writing, and animation that can be spotty at times. But the jokes landed better for me with this one, the arcs felt better written, the plot seemed more interesting and dare I even say…nuanced? And as spotty as the animation was it also had its moment. Not to mention more heart this time in regard to familial relationships. Its almost like they took the time to really work on making a better film than the original.
I tried to avoid this for some time, but honestly I would not have minded seeing this at my local theatre in hindsight. This was much better than I expected even though its certainly no top tier animated film at the same time. B- for THE BOSS BABY: FAMILY BUSINESS. Easily one of the biggest surprises for me personally this year. Not half-bad from a film that was preceded by a pretty mediocre effort.