MOON KNIGHT // s01

More of an archeological adventure with superhero elements than a straight superhero show.

Definitely draws some influence from the 90s version of The Mummy, and the globe-trotting adventures of National Treasure and Indiana Jones. As such, it feels very disconnected from the rest of the MCU, but this only works to its own benefit.

Oscar Isaac is really giving everything to his performance, split between two distinct personalities at odds with one another while in the service of the Egyptian god of vengeance.

It’s this focus on character, while using the capes and magic stuff as set dressing, that puts this a cut above the rest. It’s short too, coming in at just six episodes, so it packs everything in without overstaying its welcome.

No prior knowledge of any other Marvel stuff required, just a fun standalone little adventure. Hopefully more of the Disney+ shows work to this kind of structure.

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)

Messy and weird, with Sam Raimi’s fingerprints all over it.

Yep, Marvel finally actually let a director push out against the edges of its age rating. It’s got weird camera angles, honest-to-goodness horror, and actual gore! This is absolutey the least kid-friendly of any MCU—at times genuinely disturbing and frightening.

At its best when it’s at its most Raimi. Some really fun and creative sequences, mostly packed into the back half. Suffers from some pretty blunt exposition and clunky dialogue, but it’s aiming right for that sweet spot of hammy and cheesy, and mostly lands. It’s kinda schlocky!

As a multiverse film it’s… surprisingly underwhelming? But coming off the back of the absolutely exceptional masterpiece that is Everything Everywhere All At Once, any multiverse film is going to feel lacking. There’s the usual rollout of Marvel cameos and teases, but here it doesn’t feel so much like an obligatory setup for the next set of films as it does an excuse for some ridiculously violent action sequences spiced up with fan service. Honestly, I wasn’t blown away by the four or five big cameo appearances (beware spoilers online!), but it also didn’t feel like it was trying to drop them as gotchas so I kind of appreciated that. Ends up meaning far less for the MCU going forward than I was expecting, but that’s actually good?

Overall, a big fun carnival ride. It’s different enough from standard superhero fare, while also feeling like a distinctly superhero film. Danny Elfman’s score really elevates it into this too, and there’s a few sequences with really fun use of music in the action.

Deviation from MCU norms mean that it won’t be for everyone, but those out-there moments are when it really shines. I’m curious to know how successful it’ll be, given the focus on horror elements, and I’m glad they actually took a chance in this direction for once.

Recommended.

EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE, ALL AT ONCE (2022)

Just… wow.

There is so much going on here — a hurricane of full-sprint, gleeful weirdness. It’s incredible. It might be your new favourite movie.

It’s like The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich and Rick & Morty conspired to make something that even all that hyperbole can’t accurately describe. It 100% lives up to it’s title, and twists your expectations at every turn.

I think we’re done with multiverse movies after this. The upcoming Doctor Strange promises a lot, but you truly have to see what this film achieves with a fraction of that budget. Even on a purely practical and technical level it’s playing eight-dimensional chess.

Complete joy, wonder, raw emotion and hysterical laughter. What an absolute masterwork of cinematic lunacy.

Highly, highly recommended.

THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT (2021)

It’s fine?

Weirdly drops its title character entirely in the back half to become The Mandalorian s2.5, and then pulls back to the main plotline in the finale.

Star Wars is kind of its own worst enemy — the best parts of it are the things that aren’t really connected to the original trilogy, yet it constantly finds itself afraid to stand on its own without somehow tying back into the same handful of characters.

TBoBF unfortunately succumbs to these bad instincts, going for recogniseable and familiar places, tropes and characters instead of really doing something all its own.

It’s a mixed bag of great and terrible design choices, excellent VFX and horribly shot/staged action.

Finishes up not really doing much more than setting up the next Mando season, which is itself straying away from the self-contained vignette style that made it so appealing.

Maybe Obi Wan will be better, but I don’t have high hopes.

Watch it or don’t.

THE WITCHER // s02

Solid fantasy/action, benefitting from a more coherend (read: linear) arrangement of timelines than the first season.

Interesting spins on all sorts of legendary monsters give it a distinct and grounded flavour of high fantasy.

Cavill proves again he’s the perfect casting, and the love he has for the role oozes off the screen.

Nice to revisit painting the charater too, since the illustration I did for the first season kicked off the habit of adding them to reviews.

If you enjoyed the first season, you’ll enjoy this one. If you weren’t totally sold but thought it had potential, this season might change your mind.

Recommended.

ENCANTO (2021)

Simple and charming little story about a family who are granted magical boons on their coming of age day.

Music is unmistakably Lin Manuel Miranda, animation is colourful and lush, characters are fun.

Not quite as intensely charsmatic as this year’s Luca, but is still an easy and incredibly endearing watch, and a wonderful sort of magical fantasy for kids.

Recommended.

ARCANE // s01

A high water mark for animation, bringing fantastic art design and execution to a rich and detailed fantasy world.

From my understanding, knowledge of League of Legends (the game franchise this is based on) is unnecessary, and it certainly seems interested in making itself both accessible and engaging.

Action is kinetic and complimented by exceptional VFX work. Characters are complex, and their relationships shift and change to keep you wondering who will survive, ally, betray. It’s a big cast, but it’s very well balanced, even when it occasionally feels like it’s spreading itself thin across too many threads.

Plenty has already been said about the stunning visual style, and it’s all warranted. Better though, the story feels like it barely scratching the surface of a huge world.

Already renewed for a second season, and incredibly promising.

Highly recommended.

MARVEL’S ETERNALS (2021)

So different to the usual Marvel fare that it’s understandable the audience reaction is so mixed.

I really enjoyed it though! Don’t believe the haters, there is really something distinct here.

A cosmic epic spanning millennia, centering on a group of immortal beings sent as caretakers for humanity to gently guide their development.

Yes, it’s very slow and often dense with exposition. I would argue it might have been better served as a prestige series to allow it more time to breathe, but it does a lot with the time its given even if the pacing is uneven. Even at two and a half hours it feels like some decent sized chunks were lost in the edit.

The characters are great and their “family” dynamic is full of well executed moments and humour. Their powers are all distinct and visually striking, some of the most interesting in the MCU. The visual design is on a whole other level, there’s a kind of scope and scale here that’s wonderful to behold. The lore, while heavyhanded, is fascinating and rich.

Not without its problems, but I’m willing to forgive a lot for the sake of ambition on display. Doesn’t require any pre-existing knowledge of Marvel stuff to get into it, this is actually impressively standalone for the most part. It’s taking chances I want to see more blockbusters take.

Not for everyone, but certainly not the disaster some are hyperbolically painting is as.

Recommended.

DUNE (2021)

The granddaddy of modern sci-fi finally gets its (partial) due on the big screen.

Yep, it’s probably worth knowing going in that this is very much Part One of a gigantic epic. For all the political machinations and galactic prophesies, it only covers around half of the first book — pretty much right before things get weird.

This is prestige science fiction: incredibly shot, full of iconic design and a thundering soundtrack, political subterfuge, stacked cast. It’s slow and contemplative and absolutely dense with cryptic worldbuilding; there’s a lot to take in and someone unfamiliar with the classic could find themselves kind of lost.

There’s a depth and a complexity to the visual design and lighting that makes it feel both jaw-droppingly fantastical and tangibly, organically real. It feels like a totally realised world on a galactic scale — an immense achievement and a high-watermark for blockbusters.

So yes, it does feel incomplete, but it absolutely lays an amazing foundation for sequels. It will be an utter tragedy if Villeneuve doesn’t get to continue his vision because he’s knocked it out of the park yet again, and we’ve only just scratched the surface of what the books have to offer.

EDIT: Part Two was announced as greenlit between my original post and the following morning. Hooray!

Now that things are safe, go out there and see it big and loud. A true cinematic experience, even if it’s only half of the first part of an epic story so far.

Highly recommended.

BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR (2021)

Part Cronenberg body horror, part Lynchian psychological trip, part weirder-bits-of-TrueBlood.

Incredibly well shot and put together with a great specificity of vision that conjures a distinct and uniquely nightmarish take on 90s L.A. drenched in neon and black magic.

Some truly disgusting visuals anchored by a fantastic cast of strange, funny and rich characters.

Not for those with weak stomachs, but horror fans should definitely find a lot to love here.

Wonderfully weird, highly recommended.