Unlike some actors we know who used to earn eight-figure paychecks from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and now probably have to subsist on seven-figure residuals, Chris Hemsworth isn’t going anywhere. The star and Executive Producer is back for Thor: Love and Thunder, as is Taika Waititi, costar and director of Thor: Ragnarok, the Best Thor Movie Ever and possibly the funniest MCU film to date. Perplexingly, he’s followed up with my least favorite Waititi film to date.
“In 1995 Andy got a new toy for his birthday. It was from his favorite movie. This is that movie.”
That’s paraphrasing (i.e., possibly misquoting from fading memory) the first lines from Lightyear — its high-concept, low-bar mission statement and its disclaimer to deflect any viewers who might’ve refused to relax without some form of canonical context, no matter how tenuous or superfluous. Critics’ memories of the exact verbiage differed from one site to the next. The erstwhile animation trailblazers at Pixar were hoping those same fuzzy memories might forgive/forget the shamelessly unnecessary Toy Story 4 and embrace this, their latest merchandise revival to be contrived from the greatest animated film trilogy ever.
A coworker of mine was invited to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on opening weekend despite the fact that she’d never watched a single Marvel product in her life. While I chuckled for a few minutes and mentally judged the invitee for his selfish chutzpah, another coworker generally on the same pop-culture page as me graciously tried to recap both the first Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: No Way Home in hopes that it might give her the slightest help before being dragged into the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s kind to show someone how to dog-paddle at least a little before they’re shoved into the deep end of the pool by some dude eagerly looking forward to giving her swimming lessons while she’s drowning. Oh, the gleeful countdown he probably kept in his head for days until that heroic moment when he could point at Benedict Cumberbatch onscreen and proudly, loudly whisper to her, “That’s Doctor Strange!”
Meanwhile, I’m unhelpfully daydreaming how this exchange might’ve been twice as entertaining, but only half as helpful, if at all helpful, if coworker #2 had delivered the recap in the style of Ant-Man’s pal Luis. I am arguably an enabler of the problem here.
It’s been two months since the last new superhero film hit theaters, and six months since the last new DC Comics film. Between Oscar season and unwanted studio castoffs, it’s been such a drought for viewers who’ll only leave the comfort of their homes for comic-book films. At last The Batman is here to save them. Not that I’m complaining too loudly about this cinematic rescuer, as it’s one of the Dark Knight’s best films in over a decade, maybe longer.
Here’s the Too Long, Won’t Read version: despite some wonderful interplay among the main cast and the special guests at the heart of the film (and one beautifully meta performance in particular), Spider-Man: No Way Home is my least favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film since Thor: The Dark World. I’m in the minority on this, but no other 2021 film has aggravated me as much as this box-office leviathan did.
Hope that helps? You’re now free to go. Thanks for stopping by. I do understand. I just need to get the following 5000 words out of my system. Imagine it’s Martin Scorsese’s rapid voice so it’ll move faster.
Still here? Cool, but fair warning: it’s been a long time since I front-loaded a movie entry with a courtesy spoiler alert. There’s no way I can adequately express my reactions without moving beyond the trailer-approved plot points and into its numerous surprises, some of which were foretold on various geek clickbait sites and some of which I predicted from the trailers. Really, the courtesy spoiler alert is for real, anything goes. You might find plenty of reasons for irritation with me, but by venturing beyond the courtesy spoiler alert guard post you hereby forfeit the right to count “AAAHH! SPOILERS!” among them.
Once again, for those just joining us: courtesy spoiler alert. Thank you.
Once upon a time, new Disney and Pixar animated films were an automatic “see in theaters” category for our family. (Well, generally speaking. Maybe someday I’ll get around to The Good Dinosaur.) Works from other animation studios were not so guaranteed and were judged on a case-by-case basis. Our last animated theatrical experience was Pixar’s Onward, which was back in March 2020 and just-okay. For non-Disney fare (not counting shorts) I’d have to go clear back to the third How to Train Your Dragon in 2019, which was likewise just-okay.
Then along came a pandemic that interrupted our traditions and our rhythms. Some studios kept releasing new cartoons anyway, albeit on a protracted schedule. We ignored all of them, even after getting our shots, because of inertia. I recently caught up with a few 2021 releases on streaming services, but they haven’t been a top priority. (Maybe someday I’ll get around to Raya and the Last Dragon.) Amidst this current holiday season my son and I noticed the oversight and revived our tradition at last with an outing for Disney’s Encanto — apropos of the occasion, a film about family, tradition, and ruination that we think comes from without when in fact the disruption is coming from inside the house.
Hi, I’m a longtime comics reader who always thought the Eternals sucked.
Among the tenets of staunch dogma handed down by elder comic book fans is: Jack “King” Kirby was a saint and every page he breathed upon was perfection incarnate. To find fault in anything Kirby ever did is to sound like an edgelord poser and betray Comics. Kirby indisputably drew legendary comics and was one of the most significant co-inventors of one of our greatest American corporate mythologies, but his heyday largely ended a few years before my time. His pages could be wondrous panoplies of dynamic, majestic, blockbuster imagery, all the more mind-blowing if you can see the original, full-size art in person.
Then there were the other components, from the peculiar scripting in his post-1970 Stan-Lee-less bombastic productions to his predilection for pun-filled character names that could sound like their own MAD Magazine parodies. Multiple short samples of his mid-’70s Eternals, arguably a rehash of his DC “Fourth World” work with new nametags, left me cold. Later revivals by the likes of Walt Simonson and Neil Gaiman — yes, that Neil Gaiman — likewise did nothing for me. I didn’t even finish reading Gaiman’s version. I tried. Alas, I’m not proud to be a longtime heretic barred from the Eternal Orthodox Church of King Kirby the Konsummate Kreator.
Usually whenever an entry dawdles in my head unwritten for such a ludicrous time span, I don’t preface its procrastinated release with hyperbole to the effect of “It’s an entry five months in the making!” as if I’ve been toiling away on it day and night, tinkering with every last clause and syllable with a mental toolkit until I achieved self-expressive perfection. Sometimes that is my writing process in my mind, till I unveil the end results and then spot three typos and six flat punchlines. That isn’t the excuse here.
The pandemic isn’t over, but the long waits for the films it delayed are ending, one by one. Seventeen years after completion and on the anniversary of its fiftieth trailer, Daniel Craig bids farewell to those lovely James Bond paychecks (though not the residuals) as his fifth and final outing No Time to Die is now permitted in American theaters. Exhibitors are next looking forward to the day they can stop showing the same trailers over and over and over for the last major COVID holdout remaining, The King’s Man. This interminable era has not been a fruitful one for British action spies or Ralph Fiennes.
A lot of Tom Hardy fans were looking forward to the new film where he plays a thickly accented schlub possessed of too much power who can’t deal with its consequences and, after leaving too much death in his wake, hits some major obstacles and faces the possibility of living out the rest of his life in powerless mediocrity. That was 2020, and we all agreed never to speak of Capone again. One year later Venom: Let There Be Carnage reminds us why Hardy rules, sometimes despite his surroundings.