Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange 2 is a superhero-horror movie mashup that takes chances and mostly succeeds. Director Sam Raimi brings some a sense of anarchy and fun to the proceeding. As Strange Benedict Cumberbatch gets to flex his acting muscles for the first time as the character, bringing subtle shadings and tinges of vulnerability to the character. Recommended. Continue reading Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness

Morbius

If you’re not terribly interested in seeing Morbius, here’s all you need to know: Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is a scientist who, in seeking a cure for his blood-borne illness, turns himself into a vampire-like being.  Similar to a vampire, he has super strength, speed and moral ambiguity.  And like other Marvel heroes, he’s paid his dues at the gym, sporting a nice set of pecs.  Since he’s actually a human-bat hybrid, he’s not bothered by the usual vampire afflictions (daylight, holy water, etc.)  Although he’s essentially the villain in his movie, the history of his character in the comic books indicates he sometimes plays the hero, depending on his moods.  Similar to Venom, Morbius exists mainly as the cinematic introduction of Morbius to the Spider-Man universe of villains.  Credit cookies point to a future collaboration (team-up!) with Michael Keaton’s Vulture, who was introduced in Spider-Man: Homecoming.  (Spider-Man does not make an appearance in this movie, unfortunately.)  Even though Morbius is a small-stakes movie, it’s decently made and reasonably entertaining.  I enjoyed the movie’s breezily, gothic-lite sensibility, its unique visualization of vampiric powers and Jered Leto’s intense performance.  Mildly recommended.

If you’re still interested in learning more about the movie, read on…

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Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is one of the best comic book movies I’ve seen.  There, I said it.  Damn me to hell, or force me to have breakfast with Venom.  How can I make this claim with a straight face?  Notice that I said “best comic book movie”.  Unlike the vast majority of superhero movies put out by Marvel and DC, Venom: Let There Be Carnage (a.k.a. Venom 2) isn’t striving to be taken seriously.  That doesn’t mean that the movie wasn’t created with skill, it certainly was.  Venom 2 has no pretenses about wanting to be mistaken for a great dramatic experience, filled with angst, paint, guilt and self-doubt intermixed with fistfights.  No, Venom 2 only wants to entertain you, and it succeeds so thoroughly I hope the other superhero movie factories take notes.  Highly Recommended.

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

After the creative and dramatic pothole that was Black Widow, Marvel returns to form with Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings.  Simun Liu stars as Shawn, a slacker (by choice) who spends his days as a valet with (platonic) best friend and fellow karaoke enthusiast Katy (Awkwafina).  The past Shawn ran away from tracks him down, resulting in a bus ride that would have made even Sandra Bullock nervous.  From there, Shawn reunites with the sister he abandoned, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), and the father he ran away from, Wenwu (Tony Leung).  After spending years hiding from his past, Shawn is forced to accept who he is, as well as confront his father, who’s plans may put the entire world in danger.

Like most Marvel origin stories, Shang-Chi follows the template, down to the obligatory training sequences that confirm what we already know.  Fortunately, Shang-Chi colors outside the lines in ways that make this MCU entry exciting and engaging.  Most importantly, the movie takes its time and gives scenes (and the audience) a chance to breathe, letting us become immersed in its world before the fireworks arrive in the end.  The acting is exceptional all around, and supporting turns by Michelle Yeoh (as Shawn’s aunt) and Ben Kingsley (as misfit actor Trevor Slattery) add texture and humanity to the proceedings.  Shang-Chi leaves the funny business to Awkwafina, who’s career ascent has been nothing short of remarkable.  The special effects here are truly special, creating a sense of wonder instead of merely underpinning action sequences.  Highly recommended.

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Black Widow

Black Widow is an odd entry in the MCU: a solo outing for a female superhero that has already died (see Avengers: Endgame), and who’s actor (Scarlett Johansson) has gone on record saying that she will not return to the role after this outing.  In spite of those headwinds, anticipation for Black Widow was high.  Unfortunately, Black Widow is of two minds: quirky indie dramedy interspersed with a Marvel movie.  The comedic elements are fine, but don’t mix well with the going through the motions action sequences.  Johansson and Florence Pugh, as younger sister Yelena, are fine, and David Harbour is funny as an over-the-hill Red Guardian.  The movie’s two villains are dull as dry toast, however.  We know Natasha survives all of the proceedings, so the stakes are non-existent.  Worse still, Black Widow references two events that would be much more exciting to see than anything we end up seeing.  A disappointment.  Not recommended.

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