THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS (2021)

Sadly, no good.

Starts out interestingly enough, but the instant it becomes so meta that you expect it to elevate into something wild, it just… stops evolving.

The rest of the (very extensive) runtime is filled with dull exposition and mediocre action. Familiar characters return, with some of them swapped out for younger counterparts (with wobbly in-world explanations) since it seems unlikely Hugo Weaving or Lawrence Fishburne were going to get back into fighting shape for another go around the block.

Action films have come a long way since the original Matrix, and it’s disappointing that there’s nothing here that comes even remotely close. It’s unremarkably shot, and there’s not a single iconic setpiece, which is odd in a franchise that exploded to fame on the back of its iconic setpieces. We all thought, apparently foolishly, that the return of The Matrix meant some grand, mind-bending new evolution of action films again. Hell, Keanu’s still on his A-game with the John Wick franchise.

Instead, Resurrections chooses to go down this strangely self-aware and self-referential path, but then doesn’t really capitalise on the ideas at all. One of the earliest bits of dialogue in the film literally goes: Our parent company, Warner Media, was going to make another Matrix anyway, at least this way we get to do it on our terms.

Kind seems like “on our terms” meant taking everyone’s interest in the franchise out the back and shooting it.

Don’t bother.

DON’T LOOK UP (2021)

Your standard Adam McKay biting satire that’s so uncomfortably close to reality as to hardly qualify as satire.

This time around, it’s a comet headed for Earth with a 100% guarantee of a planet-wide extinction event, and the absolute trainwreck of a circus that ensues from the media parade of misinformation, disinformation, corporate interest and general political fuckery.

It’s frequently infuriating in its accuracy, playing for comedy what could be modern headlines with only a few small tweaks.

If the pandemic hasn’t yet completely soured your appetite for laughing at this sort of thing, then it’s a solid comedy with a stacked cast and a black heart.

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.

SPIDER-MAN: No Way Home (2021)

A brilliant conclusion to the Tom Holland/Jon Watts “Home” trilogy, that is almost impossible to discuss without severe spoilers for the back half of the film.

Best appreciated knowing as little as possible beforehand, but I’ll still keep from spoiler discussion until after the click-through below.

The shortest spoiler-free review is: it’s bloody great, go and see it.

Fundamentally, this is taking MCU Spidey and directly addressing the criticisms levelled at this incarnation (Iron Boy Jr, a lack of Uncle Ben, too many advantages compared to the traditional depiction) and playing hardball with them to set up what may well prove to be the most wonderully accurate cinematic Spider-Man we’ve ever seen. Personally, I’ve always loved this Spider-Man, but to see how they’ve maneuvered the franchise into what it will be going forward is an absurdly impressive feat. Everyone gets their cake.

Some CG is a little wonky, but it’s balanced out by some fantastic Dr Strange sequences (Multiverse of Madness hype!) and wonderful character work. I genuinely believe Tom Holland will win over a lot of his haters with this one.

Look, spoilers are all over the internet, try and get out to see it as soon as you can. Otherwise, I’ve barricaded spoilers behind the jump.

Highly recommended.

SPOILERS BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Continue reading “SPIDER-MAN: No Way Home (2021)”

THE EMPTY MAN (2020)

A pretty solid horror/mystery/thriller with a creepy pretense, good cinematography and an intriguing plot.

This is one of those ones that benefits from knowing very little going in and just seeing where it takes you.

Not altogether scary, but has its moments all the same. Not sure how strongly it all sticks together by the end, but for a long, slow sort of mystery it does more than enough right to maintain an eerie tone and try for something seldom seen in horror films.

A cult favourite waiting to happen. Worth checking out.

COWBOY BEBOP (2021)

It’s not bad!

Look, it’s missing a bit of the punch and slickness of editing and action that made the anime series so memorable, but the cast is great, the soundtrack bops and it’s mostly a fun, silly scifi romp.

Not without its criticisms, however. The extension of the villain’s story does little to establish him as a credible threat, and some of the VFX look very unfinished. Action can be kind of stitled, which is a shame because it has glimmers of real creativity and excellence that shine through and unfortunately serve to highlight the flaws.

But mostly the characterisations are fun, albiet slightly different takes to the original. If you want slavish dedication to the source material, just rewatch the anime. The prime three (John Cho, Daniella Pineda and Mustafa Shakir) are all totally on point for this interpretation.

My main disappointment was that the show didn’t adhere to the brilliant sylisation of the promotional segments, or at least leaned harder into some kind of hyper-realism to make it pop. That could have been truly special.

If you’re willing to take this on its own terms, it’s a totally serviceable space action adventure.

Good, not great.

BLOOD QUANTUM (2019)

BLOOD QUANTUM: a measure of the amount of indigenous blood in an individual, expressed as a fraction such as one-half or one-fourth. This amount is used to determine and prove the individual’s tribal belonging and legal rights.

During a zombie outbreak, a lone indigenous reservation discovers that its bloodline is immune to the infection, and so becomes a kind of refugee camp for outsiders (read: white people) from the plague.

But as is often the case in zombie fiction: people are worse than the creatures.

It’s a solidly clever spin on the genre, propped up by some brilliantly gruesome special effects and great cinematography.

If you’re an indie horror fan at all, this one should be on your must-watch list. It’s a little rough around the edges, but all the more charming for it.

Lots of gory fun. Recommended.

VENOM: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

I don’t even have much to say about this one.

It’s a tight ninety minutes worth of weird creative decisions, bland monster stomping action and awkward melodrama strung up around what barely passes for a plot.

Doesn’t even have the decency to be outright terrible, it’s mostly just uninteresting.

Sony really doesn’t know what they’re doing with Venom as a character, starting with having his origin separated from Spider-Man and running right through two films now where the primary antagonists are just gooey monsters of a different colour.

Venom is meant to be a body horror creature, and Carnage is that idea taken to the extreme. Some of the effects are wonderfully gristly and meaty, but it’s completely wasted on a bloodless PG-13 rating.

Nothing really happens. Players just move from scene to scene and then there’s a CGI fight that’s generic, but worst of all, forgettable.

Not worth the time.

CRUELLA (2021)

Actually pretty fun!

Wasn’t expecting this to have a huge heist film element to it, but it was a welcome surprise.

Not sure how far it goes to justifying the outright monster she becomes, but it doesn’t seem too interested in trying to do that. So, credit to it.

Drops a few eye-rolly explanations for things that didn’t need an explanation, same as any of these prequels tries to do, but they come so late in the game that they’re fairly inconsequential to enjoying the ride.

One of the better live-action Disney tie-ins, your mileage will vary based on your taste for those.

Does it need to exist? No.

Was it entertaining? Sure!

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.