‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ (2021) Review

'Venom Let Ther Be Carnage' (2021) Review: Symbiote Squabbles At just over 90 minutes, ‘Venom Let There Be Carnage’ is miniscule compared to your usual comic book blockbuster. The film is content with keeping things brief, something that mostly works to the movie’s advantage. The action is charged and all semblance of fat has been trimmed, but viewers might find themselves out of breath by the end of the first act.The sequel sprints from the starting line and keeps momentum at a near disorienting speed. It blazes through what feel like important story details, and keeps you from taking stock of them before it moves on to the next scene. Thankfully, once it’s laid down the building blocks with haste, ‘Venom Let There Be Carnage’ has a solid foundation for the main attraction.Watching Tom Hardy argue with himself is once again a sight to behold. Venom and Eddie Brock might be joined at the hip, but their minds are far from symbiotic in this film. Turns out, an alien being with a hunger for human flesh is a less than ideal roommate. Especially one that you can’t ever get away from. Then again Eddie Brock’s narcissism doesn’t make him an ideal candidate for friendship. The movie makes you invested in the relationship between host and symbiote much like a bickering couple in a romantic comedy. ‘Venom Let There Be Carnage’ cares more about the relationships with its characters, than the overall plot. A…

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‘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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‘The Suicide Squad’ (2021) Review

'The Suicide Squad' (2021) Review: Dream Team For the uninitiated, comic books can be incomprehensible. They’re chock full of strange elements of a wide variety. Yet beneath the trippy visuals and concepts, lies an undeniable humanity in its characters, and their stories. The Suicide Squad is a film that embraces that truth, leaning into the weird and delivering a movie that has more heart than most blockbuster movies. That, and a giant bipedal shark with the voice of Rocky Balboa.‘The Suicide Squad’ depicts the latest mission of Task Force X. A team composed of the most disposable supervillains in DC comics. Villains such as Idris Elba’s Bloodsport, John Cena’s Peacemaker, and most importantly, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. The mission is simple. In the dead of night sneak into the island nation Corto Maltese, infiltrate their secret facility, and destroy the mysterious “Project Starfish” before it can be used as a weapon against the United States. Along the way they’ll encounter numerous obstacles, most of which are self imposed. The Suicide Squad isn’t the most accomplished team, but it’s by far the most entertaining. Their antics and mishaps are also profoundly bloody. The violence in ‘The Suicide Squad’ is visceral and gratuitous, lingering on grotesque imagery, but not quite long enough to process what you just witnessed. Viewer discretion is highly advised for the faint of heart. Despite it’s gore, the movie is also remarkably beautiful. It manages to create empathy for the worst of…

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‘Wrath Of Man’ (2021) Review

'Wrath Of Man' (2021) Review: Middling One Man Army Jason Statham is no stranger to action, but then, why would he be? Too grizzly to be a leading man in a romantic comedy, and he has a voice that's great for making threats, but not exactly monologues. He's the personification of toughness, and he does it well. No one knows this better than Guy Ritchie, the director of 'Wrath of Man', who also directed Statham in the actor's first ever film. It's that understanding that makes this performance one of the best in Statham's career. If only it were in a better film. Perhaps its more that Statham does more with less here than his usual roles. Most of Statham's screen time in this film is devoted to a simple look. A mean menacing mug to ward off any unwanted company. Few actors could be as terrifying as he is, but few actors are as imposing as Jason Statham. It's an effective performance as a silent killer with the utmost focus on the task at hand: Avenging the death of his only son. He's not a man of many words but when he has something to say, it's unfortunately some of the worst dialogue. Even by action movie standards. If this review seems heavily focused on Jason Statham, that's because the rest of the cast may as well be nonexistent. They're forgettable with the exception of Scott Eastwood, who sports a scar on his…

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‘Snake Eyes’ (2021) Review

'Snake Eyes' (2021) Review: Batman Begins Again After a tight lipped debut in 2009’s GI Joe, the character of Snake Eyes, has had a rocky road back to the big screen. Now without a team by his side, the story of the masked man without a voice can finally be told. Yet, for what’s supposed to be the untold story, finally told after a decade of anticipation, ‘Snake Eyes’ feels like it lacks identity.That’s a major component for any film, but especially an origin story like ‘Snake Eyes’. There is a story to be told here. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but, a young boy witnesses the death of his father and swears vengeance on the people responsible. He travels far and wide as an underground fighter, only to be discovered by someone who can give him the skills he needs to complete his mission. The first act of the film borrows heavily (or outright steals, you choose), from another popular origin film about a man who dresses head to toe in black and names himself after a creature, Batman Begins, and does so with shameless speed. The film blazes through its shoddy opening scenes as if it's embarrassed to present them. After that the movie finds its rhythm as Snake Eyes undergoes his training to become the skilled master he’s meant to be. When it comes time to show that skill however, the movie flatlines. The action in the film…

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‘Space Jam 2: A New Legacy’ (2021) Review

'Space Jam 2: A New Legacy' (2021) Review: Nostalgic Noise I’ll admit it. It’s fun to be (at the movies) in 2021. The recent slate of blockbuster movies have been a reminder of how good they can be. The winning combination of state of the art visual effects with compelling and fantastical stories. It’s been a good ride, but all things must come to an end. That end comes with ‘Space Jam 2: A New Legacy’, the year’s first major disappointment. It’s hard to call something a disappointment if there wasn’t much hope for it to begin with. This sequel to the 1996 original features Lebron James as himself, trapped by a movie studio algorithm, played by Don Cheadle, one of the movie’s few saving graces. Lebron is forced to play a game of basketball to save his son. As nonsensical as it sounds, it’s a comfort that ‘Space Jam 2’ doesn’t spend too much time on its premise. More time is spent keeping up with the James’. Lebron’s fictional family anchors the basketball legend as a flawed protagonist. He loves his wife, his kids, but his son would rather create an entire video game than pick up a basketball. He’s a father struggling to understand his kids, while trying to show them who he is. It’s an endearing role, full of pathos, and not one Lebron James is remotely capable of pulling off. In every scene the main character looks befuddled and confused, whether…

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