Crawl, Midsommar, and Stuber Reviews (No Spoilers)

The 2-week span between Spider-Man: Far From Home and the Lion King sees the releases of little indie films trying to break out amongst the box-office behemoths.

I am going to try something unique for my next couple of reviews – not giving a score to a particular movie. I find that unnecessary comparisons tend to arise when I give a movie, for example, a 4/5 as opposed to a 3/5. In essence, everything boils down to a simple number which people are giving more stock to and I am starting to find that very disheartening. Instead, I will succinctly yet effectively convey my opinion in such a way that the reader will know my thoughts of something without necessarily reducing it to a number.

Crawl

The basic story of Crawl is simply this – Haley (played by Kaya Scodelario) tries to rescue her father during a Category 5 hurricane but soon realizes that the rising water/high winds are far from her biggest concern – it’s freaking alligators and they’ve got her family surrounded! When I first saw the trailer for Crawl, I became mildly interested. After all, the premise sounded simple and it didn’t really look as schlocky or campy as the “beloved” Sharknado or the Piranha films or Ghost Shark, etc. Color me surprised, this is easily the most surprisingly entertaining film of 2019.

The 1:27 run-time for Crawl was absolutely perfect and there weren’t many, if any, scenes that dragged the movie down. Albeit a little shallow (ha, puns!), the relationship between Haley and her dad is endearing and the 2 deliver solid performances. In addition, this movie has terrific visual effects (for a $13.5 million budgeted film). Not only do the alligators look real and absolutely terrifying, so does the hurricane. If you were concerned about the kind of movie this is, I can assure you that the VFX in Crawl aren’t like the ones in the Sharnado films. Note to Hollywood studios, Crawl demonstrates that you don’t need $100+ million for an effects-heavy film. The direction is top-notch and there isn’t much filler. The white-knuckle tension and suspense are absolutely palpable and there are sequences in Crawl that are downright, more scarier than any supernatural horror film this year.

Even though Crawl is certainly enjoyable, it isn’t without its problems.

Often times, the movie follows the tropes in the genre – characters making stupid decisions, which is definitely prevalent in this one as well. In addition, the 2 main characters are tussling with the gators numerous times but often get away with (fairly) minor injuries, as opposed to being dead. It seems as if the gators know that Haley and her dad are ‘unkillable’ till the third act. Crawl is also one of the examples of Murphy’s law. If some of you are unaware of the ‘Murphy’s Law,’ it means “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” Minor nitpick but, in the first 15-20 mins of the film, Haley is casually driving around the streets of Florida in a Category 5 hurricane!

Overall, I had a great time watching Crawl. The movie is extremely well-directed, has terrific visuals effects, and is easily the best horror/suspenseful film this year.

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Midsommar

Ari Aster’s directorial debut, Hereditary, was such a fantastic film exploring the death of a family member, mental illnesses, etc. In Midsommar, a group of young adults goes to a once in a lifetime (every 90 years to be precise) festival in a remote part of Sweden. Initially, the local villagers seem open and nice but soon, they reveal their true, sinister intent.

Technical-ly speaking, this movie is a pure cinematic masterpiece. The cinematography, the editing, the shot-selection are all immaculate and this is simply a gorgeous film to look at. Even though multiple viewings are recommended, one can still catch a lot of little details in their first watch. At its core, this movie is about the tumultuous relationship between 2 individuals and their inevitable-but-not-yet break-up. The performances are pretty subdued for a huge chunk of the film and great, but it’s Will Poulter’s comedic timing that made me partly “enjoy” this film.

However, this is a poor follow-up to Hereditary for a melangè of reasons. Aster chooses to explain very little throughout the film and as a result, I was left scratching my head a number of times. Oh, and don’t get me started on the characters. They are quite idiotic and never seem to follow logic or common-sense. The pacing is also off, as the 2:27 run-time is quite tedious. In addition, this movie has some really twisted, weird scenes that had me laughing and not in a good way.

Midsommar is totally a movie I understand why most might love but it simply wasn’t for me. The snail-like pacing and the lack of details/explanation ultimately affected my enjoyment for the film.

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Stuber

Stuber, starring Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 3 and 4) is about a law-enforcement officer, Vic, who recently underwent Lasik surgery but also ends up finding a clue, regarding a killer he’s been tracking for years, on the same day. As a result of the surgery, Vic orders an Uber but little does Stu (the driver) realize that this isn’t is his regular rides.

Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista have excellent chemistry and comedic timing. If it weren’t for these 2 carrying the bulk of the film, it would surely have faltered. Their back-and-forth is fun to watch. This movie explores the themes of toxic masculinity and is surprisingly endearing. Vic is the tough-cop, machismo character that has a hard time expressing emotions to his family, while Stu is basically the opposite. As a result, the duo has to learn to work alongside each other and change.

Unfortunately, Stuber has narrative issues and a couple of storylines that are allocated a lot of time, without necessarily having an impact. The movie also has really predictable story-beats. In addition, the reason for Stu to stay with Vic is pretty shallow. He’s after the much-coveted 5-star rating from his rides and is really hoping to not drop below a 4, which will lead to his termination. Speaking of Vic, the hard-edged cop does some pretty crazy shit, especially use excess police force on a bunch of Mexicans in one scene, but there aren’t any repercussions for that.

Overall, Stuber is a pretty enjoyable film with terrific comedic pairing in Nanjiani and Bautista. Most of the jokes land, the message is resonant, and the performances are solid.

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Ranking the 23 MCU movies (Infinity Saga)

What Marvel Studios has done is extremely unprecedented. Because they didn’t own the rights to their most popular characters like X-Men or Spider-Man (at the time), they were forced to take their B/C- level characters in Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and make movies about them. However, they took the time to flesh out these characters and humanize them and eventually, made them household names. As a result, they are now the biggest franchise in the world.

Now that the final film (Far From Home) in the Infinity Saga is out, I want to take a moment and rank all the 23 MCU movies. As always, this is subjective and I’m sure I like/dislike some MCU movies more than you.

23. Iron Man 2 –  IM2 is by no means an awful movie. RDJ is once again excellent as Tony Stark, who also has a great arc in the film. This is also our first introduction to Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, who has a really kickass fight scene in the latter half. However, this movie felt like a set-up movie to The Avengers, and the SHIELD storyline simply existed to serve that purpose. In addition, this movie juggles with a lot of storylines without properly spending time on some of them. Not to mention, the villain is extremely sub-par. Even though there are definitely redeeming elements in this film and some enjoyable sequences, it remains the worst MCU movie.

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22. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – I know most people really like this movie but unfortunately, I am not one of them. The first movie had a great balance of humor and emotions, but this goes overboard with the humor. Drax, who is great in the first movie, becomes more of a caricature and a joke-machine, which left me massively dissatisfied. Not to mention, the plot is one of Marvel’s weakest and there are way too many villains in this one. That being said, the visuals are stunning, Peter-dad relationship is extremely poignant and Yondu’s death left me quite lachrymose. Overall, GOTG vol 2 is a massive step-down from the original.

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21. Thor: The Dark World – Yes, Thor’s second outing has a lot of issues – terrible romance, the worst MCU villain-to date in Malekith, and an unfocused plot. However, it kinda works because the majority of the focus is on the relationship between Thor and Loki. Even though they are constantly bickering and trying to fight each other, deep down, they still love each other. This movie also has a good amount of humor, which sometimes does land in the cheesy territory. Despite entertaining action sequences and an emphasis on Thor-Loki sibling rivalry, the Dark World is one of Marvel’s weakest films.

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20. Ant-Man & the Wasp (A&W) – After the universe-ending stakes of Infinity War, A&W was a really nice palette cleanser. This movie doubles down on the comedy, with some hilarious moments. The visual effects are also pretty solid, and I liked how the filmmakers utilize the characters’ abilities to shrink and grow. However, it’s lack of tie-in to Infinity War is also one of its shortcomings as it ends up being an okay yet forgettable film. The villain is pretty bland and the plot remains one of the weakest.

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19. Iron Man 3 – One of the strengths of IM3 is that the filmmakers built the movie around Tony Stark, not Iron Man. After the harrowing events of the Avengers where he almost sacrificed his life, Tony starts dealing with PTSD which helps humanize him further. The action is also a big step up from the previous 2 Iron Man films, especially the sequence where Tony activates the House Party protocol and all his suits come to his assistance. Goosebumps!! However, the fake-Mandarin twist just ends up feeling like a cheap gimmick and the true villain, Aldrich Killian, ends up being another disposable villain.

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18. The Incredible Hulk – The 2008 Hulk film has its fair share of detractors, but I like this one more than most. Even though Mark Ruffalo is clearly the best incarnation of the character, Ed Norton is decent as Bruce Banner. I also really enjoyed the action sequences between the Hulk and Abomination. But one thing this movie solidified is my belief that the Hulk works the best with an ensemble, not in a solo movie. There is only so much you can do with the character without getting stale and redundant and so far, his appearances in other people’s films have had a bigger impact on me than in his own films.

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17. Doctor Strange – The movie boasts of a star-studded cast with the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, the lovely Rachel McAdams! The visuals are absolutely out-of-this-world and warrant at least one viewing in 3-D. In addition, Cumberbatch’s surgeon-turned-magician is a relatable character and his back-and-forth with Wong is fun to watch. Unfortunately, the 2 antagonists (Kaecillius and Dormammu) are pretty underwhelming (a trend in the MCU) and the humor often felt forced. Nonetheless, this is a solid, entertaining film and set the stage for Dr. Strange in Infinity War. PS – Don’t text and drive. Unlike Dr. Strange, you won’t get to become a magician.

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16. Captain Marvel – If you saw my review for Captain Marvel, you know that I really like this film. It has one of the strongest plots in the MCU and with its focus on Carol Danvers and Nick Fury, it felt like a delightful, buddy-cop flick. In addition, the twists with the Skrulls being the “good guys” who are just seeking refuge makes this film a relevant film in our political climate today. However, Brie Larson’s mediocre performance, coupled with lackluster visuals puts this film slightly near the bottom. Again, this movie’s rank and my positive opinion of the film is a testament to how good most Marvel movies have been.

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15. Black Panther – After a glorified cameo in the Civil War movie, Black Panther returns to take up the mantle as the king of Wakanda, an extremely advanced African nation. This movie has a lot of great world-building, solid performances (especially from Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger) and a wonderful score. Black Panther also has some of the strongest female characters in the MCU, with Shuri, Okoye, Nakia who all have very distinct personalities. More importantly, the movie’s political themes make this especially relevant today. However, this movie ranks pretty low on my list for a few reasons. Like Dr. Strange, the humor is hit-or-miss and the CGI, especially in the climactic battle, is poor. More importantly, Black Panther being in an indestructible suit drastically lowers the stakes. Yes, this movie won a lot of accolades (including Oscar wins and Best Picture nomination), but in my humble opinion, this is the most overrated MCU film.

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14. Ant-Man – Sans Spider-Man, Ant-Man (the character and the movie) remains one of Marvel’s most charming additions to the universe. The movie has a well-rounded cast but Paul Rudd’s casting as Scott Lang is the big reason for this film being so enjoyable. Rudd is so dam likable in the role and his passion is infectious. Not to mention, it isn’t so focused on saving the world than it is to see Scott save one person, his daughter. It’s definitely a nice change of pace from ‘The world is at stake!” Lastly, Michael Peña’s Luis is one of the funniest Marvel characters and his story-telling abilities are so f*n funny. Yes, you have a rushed romance and a one-dimensional villain but the problematic elements are minuscule, just like the titular character.

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13. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Most people enjoy the second adventure of the Earth’s mightiest heroes but it tends to rank lower on their MCU ranking lists. For me, this is one of Marvel’s best. This movie focuses a lot on the characters and their relationships (intimate in the case of Nat and Bruce) with each other, something people tend to overlook. Even with the amazing Hulk-Hulkbuster scene and the party scene, my favorite scene in this movie is the farmhouse scene and I will argue with anyone about the brilliance of this scene. The Avengers were truly broken (at least until Thanos’ snap) and seeing the conversation with Nat and Bruce about their inability to have kids is heartbreaking. Yes, it does shove a lot of storylines, relies way too much on jokes, and Quicksilver’s death scene is laughable. In addition, Ultron could have been a menacing villain but ends up another disposable villain. However, it’s still a character-driven film, despite the crazy visuals, and laid the seeds for Civil War.

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12. Thor – Being one of the most “out-there” and cosmic characters, Thor’s introduction seemed challenging. He’s an arrogant, Norse god with immense powers and a hammer that is virtually indestructible. Thus, the filmmakers decide to take those weapons away and have him learn humility. The sibling rivalry and the relationship between Odin and his 2 sons are poignant and add a really different layer to a superhero movie. What differentiates Loki from other villains is that at his core, he simply yearns for and seeks the love and respect from his adopted father, Odin. The performances are great, the action is fun to watch and the fish-out-of-water comedy is perfect for the film.

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11. Spider-Man: Far From Home – The newest entry in the MCU is also one of Marvel’s best. You can check my review here but I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Mysterio is another great addition to the villainous roster and the post-credit scenes have major implications for the next Spidey film and the future of the MCU.

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10. Iron Man – The movie that started it all! Iron Man is arguably the most popular character in pop-culture today but people often forget, he was a ‘nobody’ in 2008. Marvel took a huge (financial) chance with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man with a then-box office poison in Robert Downey Jr. This is a wonderful movie, with terrific performances and slick production design. More importantly, this movie set the tone for the MCU and teased the Avengers with the post-credit scene where Nick Fury talks to Tony about the “Avengers initiative” 

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9. Captain America: Civil War – After 2 amazing predecessors, I was teeming with anticipation for the second Russos-helmed movie, which would be semi-inspired from the Civil War comic. This movie does a great job of explaining both sides without necessarily choosing sides. At its core, it’s about the clash of ideologies, something Batman v Superman failed at. Albeit enjoyable, the airport battle is really unnecessary and as I watched it, I was afraid of the film having a huge third-act battle. Instead, the Russos smartly decide to make it small-scale with a personal, emotion-fueled battle between Cap and Bucky against Iron Man. Civil War is also an obvious example of the character journeys of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. The former blindly followed protocol and order but grew to distrust the government. Tony, on the other hand, didn’t trust the established system but realized that reporting to a higher authority is essential. Zemo, the “villain” of the movie, is still one of Marvel’s best, most sympathetic villains. This was our first introduction to Black Panther and a new incarnation of Spider-BoyMan and both are utilized really well.

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8. Captain America: The First Avenger – Captain America was never my favorite character from the comics. Pardon my phrase but he was too much of a “goody two shoes.” Even though this movie goes that route, Chris Evans’ performance makes this movie one of the best. His sincerity and earnestness to do the right thing, no matter the consequence, is extremely inspiring. The romance between Steve and Peggy is so earned, which is one reason for the dance scene in Endgame being so powerful. The First Avenger also has, hand’s down, the best quote in the MCU. Before the experiment, Dr. Erskine tells Steve, “The strong man who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength and knows… compassion. Whatever happens tomorrow you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.” Chills!!

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7. Spider-Man Homecoming – When Sony/Marvel announced another Spider-Man movie, I admit I was a little fatigued and apprehensive. However, Homecoming turned out to be one of the biggest, pleasant surprises in the MCU. This movie is such a refreshing film, with hilarious characters and gut-wrenching laughs. Civil War did a great job, but Homecoming is the first Spider-Man film to truly understand the character. Yes, saving the world is important but so is the date with a girl you have a crush on. Tom Holland showcases his dramatic skills especially in the scene where he is stuck underneath the rubble. Oh, and Michael Keaton as the Vulture? Sign me up! Homecoming proved that nobody is more menacing (not even a CGI villain trying to destroy the world) than Keaton staring directly at Peter and speaking in a growly voice in a car. If that happened to me, I would definitely pee my pants. Jokes aside, Homecoming also nicely ties into the Avengers mythos and Tony essentially becomes the ‘Uncle Ben’ figure to Peter.

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6. Guardians of the Galaxy – GOTG was one of the biggest risks Marvel had ever taken. Characters like Iron Man or Captain America were at least semi-familiar characters but the Guardians were unheard of, even amongst Marvel fans. Once again, Marvel surprised us. The characters of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot are such different characters, but you absolutely buy this band of misfits becoming a family. It is a gorgeous film to look at and has the best soundtrack of any MCU film to-date. Unfortunately, a poor villain and a ridiculous ending (the Guardians holding hands and absorbing the power of the infinity stone to beat the villain) preclude the film from joining the Top 5.

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5. Thor Ragnarok – Ragnarok is the single funniest MCU movie to-date. The director Taika Watiti, who also plays Korg, exploits the comedic sensibilities of its lead Chris Hemsworth and literally takes the character to a new direction – a comedic, buddy-cop, space opera! The new additions like Korg, Valkriye, Hela are all great! Jeff Goldblum plays Jeff Goldblum, which is always charming! Aesthetically speaking, this movie has some of the best visuals in the MCU and the color palette is visual eye-candy. But don’t let the comedy fool you into thinking that this movie is inconsequential. Ragnarok is also one of Marvel’s darkest films, with Thor losing his hammer, eye, father, friends, Asgard, etc. Aside from a little too much emphasis on jokes undercutting some dramatic moments, Ragnarok absolutely deserves to be in the Top 5.

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4. Avengers: Infinity War – Just looking at the sheer number of characters in the film is more than enough to scare any filmmaker. However, the Russo brothers somehow make this movie work. Each and every character gets a moment to shine but the focus is still kept on the film’s main characters – Thanos and Thor. Speaking of, after glorified cameos in the 2 previous Avengers movies and Guardians 1, Thanos finally got his due with this film and boy, he commands the screen. Thanks to Infinity War and Endgame, he’s now my all-time favorite villain. Infinity War contains a lot of fun character meet-ups and interactions, with Thor meeting the Guardians, Iron Man meeting Dr. Strange, etc. The (numerous) action sequences are some of the best in the MCU and the cliffhanger of an ending left everyone in the theatre in shock!

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3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – When asked about their favorite MCU film, many often reply with the Winter Soldier and I can totally see why. This film completely changed the “goody two shoes” nature of Steve Rogers by putting him in the “real world” and addresses current issues of espionage, surveillance, etc. For the first time, Steve is forced to distrust the government and the system, and the movie does a good job building up to that. It’s a political thriller with some genuine twists I didn’t see coming. The hand-to-hand combat sequences are some of the best in the MCU, and we witness wonderful friendships between Steve, Nat, and Sam Wilson (Falcon). Honestly, this is the movie that made Captain America become my favorite character in the MCU. Minor complaints aside, this is easily the best, solo superhero film in the MCU and absolutely deserves a spot in the top 3.

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Spoiler alert – My top 2 MCU films are 2 Avengers films. However, the reason they are so high on my list is because of the solid groundwork/set-ups and character-work laid in the solo films.

2. Avengers: Endgame – Like Captain America himself, I can talk about this film all day. Here is my full, in-depth review of Endgame. In summary, Endgame is such a satisfying conclusion and is all the more rewarding to those of us that have carefully seen the other films and been a part of the journey. There are so many call-backs, references to the other films but they serve a purpose in the story. The actors arguably deliver their best performances to date and the final third-act battle is everything the Marvel fan in me could have ever hoped for. Like all of you, I love this movie 3000.

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1. The Avengers – Tied with Jurassic Park as my favorite movie(s) of all time, The Avengers is still the benchmark for all the comic book films. This is a movie that I never dreamed would ever happen and boy, it did! Joss Whedon understood these characters and smartly wrote his movie around them. The characters and their interactions with each other, the action, the humor, the story are all great and make for the best, the most enjoyable film in the MCU to-date. Not to mention, The Avengers is also endlessly quotable.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home Review (No Spoilers)

The sequel to the beloved Spider-Man: Homecoming is finally here! Before I go any further, I am issuing a SPOILER WARNING for Avengers: Endgame. I mean, if you’re one of the 3 people on the planet that hasn’t seen Endgame already, you probably don’t care about spoilers.

After Tony Stark sacrificed his life by snapping Thanos’ and his forces to dust, Peter starts feeling pressured to step up and fill the shoes of his late mentor. However, the kid is completely exhausted and just wants a break after the harrowing events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame and decides to leave his suit behind and go on a school trip to Europe. As one can expect in the life of a superhero, the danger is at the front door and Peter must once again don [multiple] suits to save the day.

Positives

Tom Holland once again proves why he is the best on-screen incarnation of Peter Parker/Spider-Man ever! He is able to nail the comedy, dramatic and emotional aspects of the character so f*n well. This is his 5th appearance as the web-slinger and I can’t get enough. Jake Gyllenhaal, one of my favorite actors, delivers the best performance in the film and full honesty, his character (Quentin Beck aka Mysterio) might just be my favorite villain in a Spider-Man movie ever!! Beck claims that he is from a different Earth, and that “snap [presumably Thanos’] tore a hole in the dimension.” I absolutely loved his character’s antics but can’t say anything more without giving away spoilers. Holland and Gyllenhaal also have great chemistry and Beck serves as a new, surrogate father to Peter.

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The rest of the cast all do a solid job but Zendaya shines above most of them. She’s given a bigger role in this film and thankfully, it isn’t just to serve as a love interest for Peter.

The Spider-Man action is absolutely delightful to watch, but more importantly, this movie works both as a superhero movie and as a coming-of-age film. In terms of superheroics, the action scenes with Mysterio and Spidey teaming-up to take down the Elementals is fun to watch, albeit drag a little. Speaking of the Elementals and to avoid revealing spoilers about their origins, I’ll simply mention what Mysterio states in the film, “They were born in stable orbits. Within the black holes, creatures formed from the primary elements. Air, Water, Fire, Earth.” There are also a lot of twists and turns, which is expected from a villain named ‘Mysterio.’

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As mentioned above, everyone (especially Nick Fury) is expecting Spider-Man to be the next Iron Man, but he just wants to be the “friendly neighboorhood Spider-Man.” A quick side-note, but the movie actually explains why the supposed-omnipresent Fury is a little ‘off his game’ and a little incompetent in this film. Anyways, Tony’s death in Endgame serves as the main emotional driving force for Peter and is endearing and works absolutely well! Peter is so overwhelmed by the responsibility of filling Iron Man’s shoes that he starts doubting himself and makes mistakes he’ll later regret.

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All that aside, let’s “talk” about the post-credit scenes in Far From Home! Not only are they entertaining, but they are also EXTREMELY important for the future of the MCU! The mid-credit scene left me in a state of shock and honestly, I haven’t been this excited for a new Spider-Man movie ever! The final post-credit scene ties in with a different Marvel movie and has huge implications for the future of the MCU. All I’ll say is, if you’ve seen other Marvel films, not just the MCU, you will be excited!

Negatives

Even though it is a movie about 16-year olds, the teen-romantic drama kinda took me out of the film. Ned-Betty fling seemed cute at first but got tiring after a point, while Peter and Brad’s rivalry for MJ’s affection felt unnecessary. These are tropes we’ve seen before, especially in Spidey films, and is partly responsible for the first act being a slog. In addition, the Ned-Betty romance is also responsible for Peter sharing fewer scenes with Ned, which is not acceptable considering the duo have great chemistry and were inseparable in the first film.

There are also scenes that linger a tad bit too long, specifically the Elementals’ action scenes, which affect the pacing. Lastly, this movie isn’t remotely as funny as its predecessor. There are a ton of gags, like the science teacher’s ‘witches’ jokes or Flash’s vlogging, that never land.

Rating

Although sub-par compared to Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home is still a worthy sequel! The solid performances, well-realized character work, and the use of Mysterio’s powers help deliver an emotional yet entertaining package! Apologize for being vague with my review, but I don’t want to give away any spoiler that both Sony and Marvel have gone at length to not show in the marketing. 4/5.

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Anna, Annabelle Comes Home, and The Dead Don’t Die Reviews (No Spoilers)

Yes, you read that right. 3 disparate movie reviews in one article. Even though this is my first, I have been thinking of adopting this style for some time now. Rather than writing long, separate reviews for every movie I see in a theatre, I decided to start writing a couple of condensed reviews, effectively communicating my point across. Of course, I will still write my regular, in-depth reviews for the big blockbusters but for under-the-radar movies like Anna, Annabelle Comes Home, and The Dead Don’t Die, writing shorter reviews is more effective.

Anna

As of this writing, Anna rocks a poor 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. Gotta say though, this movie is better than what many critics are making out to be. Now I don’t want to make excuses for other people’s opinions but upon reading a few reviews after watching the movie, I noticed that many delve on the director, Luc Besson’s alleged sexual assault allegations. Isn’t that a little unfair? Shouldn’t we judge a movie on its own merits?

Anyways, I had a good time watching Anna. The main female lead, played well by Sasha Luss, is a character you absolutely feel for, despite her killing sprees. Cillian Murphy, Luke Evans, and Helen Mirren all deliver solid performances, and this movie has a good amount of twists and turns that leave you guessing till the end. In terms of action, the movie does have some well-choreographed sequences, especially the restaurant scene. Upon realizing that the gun she was given had no bullets, Anna is forced to utilize objects in her surroundings and seeing her use knives, plates, forks to kill the “bad guys” is pretty exciting! Albeit sub-par compared to the gun-fu of John Wick or the hand-to-hand combat of Atomic Blonde, the action is pretty entertaining to watch.

That being said, I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu, like I’ve seen all this before, which renders Anna as just another ‘seductive spy flick.’ Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow literally came out last year and the main plot of that – a Russian-nobody-turned spy has to use her sexuality to accomplish her goals, and Anna borrows a lot of elements from that. This film also has a romance between Anna and one of her friends, which is ultimately pointless and simply ends up taking valuable screentime. In addition, one of the most problematic elements of this flick is its use of non-linear story-telling. The movie constantly jumps around the timeline, for example – 5 years later to 6 months earlier to 3 years later, etc. Lastly, this movie also suffers Captain Marvel/Rey problem – a strong female without any adversary. Throughout the film, she often comes off as invincible, which reduces the stakes. 

Overall, Anna is a pretty enjoyable movie with good performances, entertaining action, and a likable main character. Yes, it also has a hackneyed premise, seemingly-unbeatable lead, and an unnecessarily lengthy run-time, but I had a darn good time watching it! 3/5.

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Annabelle Comes Home

I caught the third Annabelle film in an advanced screening and I got to say, this movie is better than I expected. Oh, and just found this!

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For starters, the addition of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s Warrens’ characters is always appreciated! Even though they aren’t in the movie a whole lot, their presence helps elevate the material. The threequel has a surprising amount of humor and for the most part, the jokes landed. However, it’s the solid character work where this movie excels at. The filmmakers take time to flesh out the characters, something most horror directors fail at. By getting us invested in the characters, the audience genuinely wants the characters to survive the harrowing adventures. The tension is palpable and to the movie’s credit, it doesn’t rely on jump-scares a ‘lot.’

Where this movie, unfortunately, goes downhill is in its 2nd act. Now don’t get me wrong, characters trapped in a house with haunted things is a cool premise, but it needs to be executed well. However, the second half is essentially characters walking around, getting scared from a probably-the-next-spinoff-film demon, and running away. In addition, the Annabelle doll is so infuriatingly inept. If it needs a soul, what is the point of scaring the hosts? It’s pointless! Seriously, the demons don’t do much in the film other than being a nuisance to the characters and us, the audience. The demonic elements in this film is so lackluster and risible.

In conclusion, Annabelle Far From Home   Comes Home is a pretty decent movie because of its emphasis on characters, charming chemistry between the main leads, and a good amount of humor infused throughout the film. The aforementioned positives save this film from a ridiculous second-half and some truly terrible demonic elements. 2.8/5

 

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The Dead Don’t Die

The Dead Don’t Die, the latest film from Jim Jarmusch is about three cops that start seeing a lot of weird things happen: an unusual amount of daylight in the night-time, no cell reception, and as the name implies, the dead start coming to life. Apparently, excess polar fracking has shifted the Earth’s axis, which is responsible for the aforementioned “disasters.”

Adam Driver and Bill Murray have excellent chemistry and their occasional, deadpan back-and-forth is hilarious. The 2 characters also break the 4th wall quite often, a la Deadpool, and surprisingly, there is also an album with the title ‘The Dead Don’t Die’ that the characters are enamored by in the actual movie. In addition, there are some subtle and some blatantly obvious jabs at the current Trump administration (one of the characters dons a ‘Make America White Again’ hat), their handling of global warming, and the state of modern society with everyone acting like “zombies.” Yeah, this movie has it all! Oh, and did I mention aliens are in this movie too? Because why not!

Jarmusch’s plan is to throw everything, including the kitchen sink into this weird, goofy, mess of a film. Narratively speaking, this movie has a very little plot, thus Jarmusch throws in a boat-load of characters to pad the runtime. The problem, however, is that most of the characters are given a sizable amount of screen-time but are disposed of fairly quickly and/or unnecessary. Aside from the Driver/Murray comedy, the rest of the jokes fall flat. Lastly, this movie is painfully long and because of a lack of story, the 1:45 runtime feels like an eternity. Yes, the movie is definitely intended as a satire but the messages are so forced and there is no life in the film, literally and figuratively.

Despite the hilarious Adam Driver/Bill Murray scenes, this movie is a soulless, uninspired film that has narrative issues, and is a comedic and a tonal mess. 1.5/5.

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Box Office – Why Avengers: Endgame couldn’t catch Avatar?

Proclaimed as the ‘cinematic event of our lifetime,’ Avengers: Endgame has dominated the pop-culture lexicon ever since the cliffhanger-ending of Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos wiping out half of all life, including beloved heroes like Spider-Man, Black Panther, left audiences in a state of shock, which made the final chapter of the 22-film saga even more of an event. When the tickets went on sale for Endgame, ticketing sites like AMC, Fandango, Atom Tickets, either crashed or experienced huge delays from system overloads. Fandango reported that Endgame’s pre-sale tickets demolished the previous record-holder’s pre-sales, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in less than 1/4th the time. The record-breaking pre-sales immediately left the film-fan community wondering – Will Avengers: Endgame be the movie that finally dethrones Avatar’s 10-year long-held #1 spot in the worldwide box office list. Despite the crazy hype and buzz that Avengers: Infinity War and the Force Awakens enjoyed, the 2 Disney flicks successfully joined the exclusive 2-billion club but were unable to topple James Cameron’s Titanic and Avatar. Titanic remained #2 at $2.187.5 billion, while Avatar sat comfortably at #1 with $2.788 billion. All that seemingly changed once Endgame opened.

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Endgame opened to a tune of $357 million, utterly annihilating the previous domestic-opening weekend record-holder, Infinity War ($257 million). Worldwide, Endgame opened to Galactus-sized $1.2 billion, destroying the previous opening weekend record-holder, Infinity War ($641 million). With the gargantuan $1.2 billion opening weekend that Endgame had, even the most skeptical box-office pundits became all-but-certain that it’s not a matter of if but when Avatar would be dethroned by the Avengers flick. However, it looks like Endgame will end up being just short of Avatar’s record, which is something I have said since day 1. As of this writing, Endgame is at $2.749 billion, less than $40 million from Avatar. Barring a miracle, Endgame will probably end its run with $2.754 billion at this rate. Shameful, right? Disney is crying itself to sleep, knowing that their movie, Endgame, won’t top their other film, Avatar (recently-acquired from the Fox purchase). Just being facetious, of course. Who am I kidding? As I write this article, the Disney execs are probably sleeping atop the piles of cash Endgame raked in.

Jokes aside, I believe there are 2 big reasons for Endgame failing to top Avatar’s record – the sheer competition and the 3-hour run-time.

Competition

In my opinion, the sheer competition is the biggest reason for Endgame failing to top Avatar. Unlike its rival, Endgame faced/continues to face an onslaught of heavy competition. Just for the sake of simplification and ease, I will only list movies that grossed at least $100 million within Endgame and Avatar’s first 2 months of release. In its first 2 months, Endgame’s major competition included – Detective Pikachu ($422 million+), John Wick 3 ($290 million +), Aladdin ($800 million +), Godzilla 2 ($350 million +), Rocketman ($150 million +), Dark Phoenix ($250 million +), Secret Life of Pets 2 ($200 million +), Men in Black ($180 million +), Toy Story 4 (just opened as of me writing this article – $238 million +), and Annabelle 3 (yet to open). Not to mention, Spider-Man: Far From Home and The Lion King also release real soon. Even though none of the aforementioned movies will make as much money as Endgame, they definitely took (at least $40 million) money away from Endgame.

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On the other hand, let’s look at Avatar’s competition in its first 2 months of release. Avatar’s significant competition included – Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel ($443 million +), Sherlock Holmes ($524 million +), The Wolfman ($139 million +), Shutter Island ($294.8 million +), and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief ($226 million +).

Note – Endgame faced 2x the significant competition than Avatar. In addition, the competing films also went for a similar demographic as Endgame. Sans John Wick 3, Annabelle 3 and Rocketman, the other 7 films have a four-quadrant appeal and target a family-audience. In Avatar’s case, there really isn’t a clear-cut direct competition. Alvin and the Chipmunks is primarily targeted at the kids, while the Percy Jackson flick is more targeted towards the young adults. Wolfman, Shutter Island, and Sherlock Holmes are all geared toward adults.

Run-time

The longer a movie is, the fewer number of showtimes can it have in a day. Avatar clocks in at 2 hours and 42 minutes, while Endgame has a run-time of 3 hours and 2 minutes. One might be tempted to say, “It’s only a 20-minute difference. Big deal!” In reality, those 20 minutes are a huge deal! With significantly less competition and a shorter run-time, Avatar was able to stay in theatres a lot longer and play on many more screens than theatres could for Endgame. Being 3 hours long, theatres can only show Endgame a finite number of times in any given day. Because this article does a superb job in explaining the correlation between a longer run-time and box office, I highly recommend checking out this article from Variety. As explained in the article, “exhibitors are budgeting an additional hour for each screening, which cuts at least one showtime daily.” Multiply one lost screen with every theatre domestically and Endgame loses at least 4000 screenings in any given day. Of course, this number is a lot higher when you factor in the international screens.

In addition, the lengthier run-time also affects the re-watchability factor. Even if people love Endgame 3000, many are a little hesitant to go back to the theatres and re-watch Endgame, as it’s a pretty long movie. And obviously, going to the movie theatre is a costly, time-consuming endeavor. Not to mention, many parents might be afraid of taking their young children to a 3 hour+ movie.

Conclusion

Despite the huge opening weekend, Avengers: Endgame won’t (and doesn’t have to) catch Avatar at its current pace. The movie faced a lot of competition and it’s lengthier run-time limits the number of screenings per day. Yes, you also have other factors like streaming options, novelty, etc. but the effects of those are arguably minuscule compared to the reasons I elaborated on. However, the rank really doesn’t matter that much. Either way, we (and Disney) win. Besides, Endgame has made over $2.7 billion, something only one other film has ever done. It has already broken most of the box-office records and cemented its place in the hearts of movie-goers. Honestly, there is nothing to be ashamed about for Endgame winning the silver medal.

PS – Disney/Marvel is “re-releasing” Endgame with a deleted scene, a tribute (presumably of Stan Lee) and “some extra surprises.” Even though it’s still possible, I just don’t see Endgame making an additional $40 million from this so-called “extended cut.”

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Men in Black: International Review (No Spoilers)

Men in Black: International is a quasi-reboot of the beloved Will Smith-Tommy Lee Jones space cops franchise from the ’90s. This new, globe-trotting adventure stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson. Despite the lackluster trailers, I was kinda looking forward to this film. For starters, Hemsworth and (Tessa) Thompson had wonderful chemistry in Thor: Ragnarok and Endgame! Second, a movie like this, dealing with immigration issues today, could have made this film more relevant and elevated it from becoming just another MiB flick.

Positives

Even though they were a lot better in Ragnarok, Tessa Thompson, and Chris Hemsworth have great chemistry nonetheless. If it weren’t for these 2 leads at the helm, this movie would surely not work. They have delightful back-and-forths and the movie absolutely shines when it lets the duo interact with each other. Even though most of the lines aren’t funny per-say, it’s their delivery that makes it work. In addition, the little, Alita-eyed, samurai alien creature, Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) gets the best jokes and is a nice addition.

In terms of humor, this film is a sort of half-and-half. When the movie lets Hemsworth, Thompson, and Nanjiani (Pawny) interact with each other, I genuinely had a good time. But I will say, the references to Hemsworth’s Marvel role, Thor, wielding a hammer made me crack up!

The performances are solid throughout. Even though most of the character arcs are non-existent, the actors do the best with what they have to work with.

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Negatives

Rather than bringing something unique to the table, this film is more or less in the vein of the last 3 but, worse. Hemsworth’s character, agent H, is constantly proclaimed to be one of the best in the organization but that is the opposite of what is actually presented. Throughout the movie, he is messing around, cracking jokes, and frankly incompetent. Albeit a nitpick, Thompson’s character discovering the secret base by putting a hand through the fence is nonsensical.

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It’s hard to imagine that no one’s ever discovered that before. But, I digress. The villains, teased in the trailers, don’t have much to do and their phasing abilities are all they have. And of course, as you’d expect in a MiB movie, there are twists and turns but seriously, they are extremely predictable.

Despite having the likes of Hemsworth and Thompson at the helm, and aliens, this movie had me bored for a good amount of time. About 10-15 minutes could have been cut out, which would have improved the pacing. The plot also gets quite convoluted, once the big reveal happens. Also, what was the point of Rebecca Ferguson’s character? Her character serves absolutely no purpose but simply ends up taking a huge chunk of screen-time.

Rating

It seems like Men in Black: International joins the recent trend of critically-panned yet semi-enjoyable films (Godzilla 2 and Dark Phoenix). Despite 2 charismatic leads and solid performances, this new incarnation of the iconic Men in Black franchise has a messy story, poor characters, questionable directing choices and an unnecessarily lengthy runtime. 2.5/5

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Dark Phoenix Review (Mild Spoilers)

Dark Phoenix has had a very tumultuous last couple of months. The early buzz from the test screenings claimed that the movie was an unmitigated disaster, with multiple reports also suggesting that the film underwent extensive reshoots that ballooned the budget to over $200 million. On top of that, the $71.3 billion Disney-Fox deal left the filmmakers scrambling to find a way to wrap this film’s ending as the culmination of the X-Men saga.

Positives

The train sequence, which frankly looked underwhelming from the trailers, is by far the best part of the film. Seeing the synergy between the X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants against the alien creatures was really fun to watch. We get to witness the heroes using their powers in tandem and honestly, we get the best Magneto-related action scene ever.

The performances are mostly hit-or-miss. Sophie Turner is surprisingly good as Jean Grey/Phoenix and is able to stand her own against heavyweights like Fassbender, MacVoy, Chastain, Lawrence, etc. Fassbender, one of my favorite actors working today, once again steals the show as Magneto. Even though he doesn’t have much to do this time around, coupled with a forced introduction, I definitely enjoyed seeing him on-screen again.

Negatives

Because of a lack of central story, the movie feels unfocused and meanders about, thus leaving me quite bored for a majority of the runtime. In addition, most of the major characters don’t have much of an arc. Even though the idea of seeing Charles Xavier as an egoistic is unique and interesting, the execution is botched. No matter how prideful this Xavier has supposedly become, it’s out-of-character for Xavier to risk the lives of his X-men, as demonstrated in the film’s opening space rescue scene. Jean Grey’s turn as the Phoenix is supposed to be her wrestling with her unimaginable, god-like powers but we rarely get to see that. Despite being the titular character, Jean once again feels like a secondary character in her own movie. It also doesn’t help that we barely got to spend time with the newcomers like Jean Grey or Scott Summers in X-Men Apocalypse. Because we don’t have much emotional connection with them, their turns and romance just feel contrived. Quicksilver, the biggest highlight from Days of Future Past and Apocalypse, has even less of a role in this one. Seriously, Hollywood has something against the Quicksilver character. That being said, Beast’s character arc is definitely handled the best and is a clear demonstration of the stages of grief (over Mystique’s death). Even though this was a big spoiler moment in the film, the trailers and the filmmakers spoil Mystique’s death.

Also, didn’t Jean use the Phoenix force to destroy Apocalypse in X-men: Apocalypse? But, she gets that cosmic force in this film… So, what the heck? Yes, I know that the Fox’s Marvel films do not care much for continuity, but that was kind of a BIG deal. Jean tapped into her inner Phoenix force and singlehandedly destroyed the god-like mutant, Apocalypse. Narrative and dramatic-wise, this movie would have benefitted from delving deeper into the awesome powers Jean has always possessed internally, rather than making the Phoenix force an external force.

Also just want to point out, I am perplexed as to why Fox hired a first-time director to direct a major, $200 million+ movie. Even though Simon Kinberg has been involved with the X-men franchise for many years, he has never directed a film. In this movie, there are so many faulty moments, from the editing to the character work, that shows the work of a first-time director.

The actual villains of the film are such uninteresting, generic baddies. Jessica Chastain, one of the best actors today, plays the leader(?) of this alien race and judging from her performance, she clearly doesn’t want to be there. Her line delivery is so monotonous and her character’s motivations are unclear and frankly, underwhelming.

Rating

Despite getting hammered from both critics and audiences, I got to say that this film is better than what I presumed it would be. Again, I liked Apocalypse more than most people, so make of that what you will. The third-act climactic battle is enjoyable joyful to watch and most of the actors do the best with what they are given. However, what they are given is sadly disappointing and this movie deserved a better ending. A lackluster story and poor character arcs ultimately sink this movie. 2/5.

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