‘Queenpins’ (2021) Review

'Queenpins' (2021) Review: Good Girls Break Bad Turn on your television in the last decade and you’d likely come across a familiar premise. A mild mannered suburbanite turns to a life of crime to help make ends meet. Consumed by greed, and the thrill of a life of crime, they push their luck, becoming more ruthless as they evade the authorities. ‘Queenpins’ takes that premise, but instead of your typical criminal enterprises like drugs or weapons, the protagonists of this film make their riches off the sale of counterfeit coupons.  Forged discounts on supermarket goods isn’t the most exciting trade, a fact the movie acknowledges frequently. Yet for Kristen Bell’s Connie and Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s Jojo, getting groceries at a fraction of the cost is an unmatched adrenaline rush. There’s plenty of jokes mined out of their devotion to discounts, and it goes a long way to making you care about coupons. You will walk out of the film knowing more about coupons than you ever cared to. While they might be savvy shoppers, they’re far from the career criminals they purport to be. Much of their success in the film is largely due to the fact that coupons are not high on the priority list for most law enforcement agencies. Except of course for Paul Walter Hauser’s Ken, a hilariously sad loss prevention officer with a penchant for spotting forgeries. Ken teams up with Vince Vaughn’s Simon, who’s giving his best performance…

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‘Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings’ (2021) Review

'Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings' (2021) Review: Martial Arts Marvel After crafting a universe spanning 24 films, multiple television series, the 25th film in the interconnected Marvel franchise attempts to go back to basics. Introducing a new face to its ever growing pantheon of characters with Shang-Chi, the first ever Asian leading a major American superhero blockbuster. As the audience meets Shang for the first time, we enter into a world that’s become all too familiar, almost to the movie’s detriment. It’s a difficult thing to evoke surprise in a universe where the impossible has been seen time and time again. The film acknowledges this in Shang Chi’s first fight. In it he battles a gang of experienced martial artists, and a man with a glowing blade for a hand, adequately named Razor Fist. Instead of shock and awe, the onlookers are mostly unbothered by what’s occurring. One character even seized the opportunity to live stream the event to his audience. The indifference of the citizens lets the action commence without consequence as Simu Liu tears through his opponents like a Jackie Chan tribute artist.The film’s attitude towards its more fantastic elements reflects the journey of Shang Chi himself. He’s a young, unmotivated millennial with no conception of anything close to a 5 year plan. As the movie progresses Shang is revealed as less of a hero in the making, but more of a reluctant one. As he moves closer…

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‘Escape Room’ (2021) Review

'Escape Room Tournament of Champions' (2021) Review: Sadistic Survival Having skipped the original ‘Escape Room’, I was worried I’d have missed some crucial information going into this sequel. This seems to be an anticipated anxiety, as the first 5 minutes of the film are devoted to catching you up to speed with the story so far.Previously on ‘Escape Room’, survivors Zoey and Ben are traumatized by their narrow getaway from the jaws of death. Haunted by nightmares of the walls closing in, and armed with a righteous belief in bringing their torturers to justice, the two set off to find the truth behind the devious Escape Rooms, and put a stop to them once and for all. If it were only that simple. Instead, they find themselves caught in the fray yet again, this time with a brand new set of teammates, themselves veteran survivors of their own torture chambers.  While the premise of a Tournament of Champions is intriguing, I was disappointed with how little the film did with it. With the exception of the main characters, most of the players in this film are either paralyzed with panic, or completely clueless. While this makes for poor characters, it does give ‘Tournament of Champions’ a healthy roster of expendables to show the full depravity of its sets. In just over 90 minutes, the film manages to expose you to a number of creatively designed and intriguing puzzle rooms for the characters to outmaneuver,…

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‘Respect’ (2021) Review

'Respect' (2021) Review: Requiem For A Queen There are many roles that feel like the result of divine intervention. Actors who come along at the right time for the performance they were born to play. For Jennifer Hudson, that destiny is manifested in ‘Respect’, as she pays tribute to the Queen of Soul. Hudson was even selected by Franklin herself. Still, while the royal appointment was made, the rest of the film had the work of doing justice to the story of an icon. Thankfully, ‘Respect’ delivers. The film is a moving story that chronicles the journey of a young woman beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. From her controlling father to her abusive husband, much of Aretha Franklin’s story is portrayed as a tale of the world's strongest voices being silenced at every turn. The darker elements of this biopic give the movie a sense of despair, yet through it all Hudson gives Franklin a quiet resilience. There’s a confidence she has in moments of dread. Whether it’s confidence in her talent, or her trust in the Lord, Hudson moves with a faith that’s tested repeatedly throughout the film. The movie is also a who’s who of 60s and 70s. Legends like Dinah Washingston and Smokey Robinson make brief appearances. Beyond the music, the film makes a point of Franklin’s activism. ‘Respect’ is a wide reaching and expansive film that takes a person who…

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‘Jungle Cruise’ (2021) Review

'Jungle Cruise' (2021) Review: Fun & Familiar There’s a moment in ‘Jungle Cruise’ in which cruise captain Frank single handedly wrestles a hungry cheetah, and wins. The movie has an explanation for why this impossible thing occurs, and for the most part it’s acceptable, but it was not lost on me that no such explanation was necessary. When it comes to Dwayne Johnson are more than willing to accept impossible acts of heroism. ‘Jungle Cruise’ is the film that takes that reality, and pushes it to the very limit. Yes I'm aware this is the same man who tried to convince audiences he could flex his way out of a cast.Throughout this movie, the three heroes at the centre of it face all the threats the jungle has to offer. Poisonous plants, headhunters, wild animals, and if that wasn’t enough, a group of cursed conquistadors with more magic abilities than the Hogwarts Alumnus. It’s a setting that makes for some thrilling moments, though not exactly dreadful. While flora, fauna, and fantasy make for the most sever threats, the heroes of this film also have to contend with the human element. Naturally, the film sets Jesse Plemons and Paul Giamatti to play over the top charicatures. Giamatti as an Italian meatball, and Plemons as a nazi in everything but name. Giamatti's words are never without an exuberant gesture, and Plemons' only excuse for not twirling his moustache is that it's not long enough…

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