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.
Sure, I could’ve been a better blogger and rushed to type my thoughts after being flabbergasted (at IMAX size, no less) by James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad while it was still cool on opening weekend and before everyone decided it was “over” because it didn’t make $400 million at the box office, as if the HBO Max day-and-date release was never a mitigating factor. What else is there to say about a film so nakedly audacious about its primary objectives, so cocky about its body count in all the trailers and interviews, and so thorough in exceeding its dark-humored, extreme expectations? Besides adding that, yes, I too said “wow” and “YUCK” more times than I could count?
Nearly a decade in the making and fourteen months in the releasing, the next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here at long last, two years after Spider-Man: Far From Home capped off Phase III in theaters. Fans had to content themselves with Marvel’s new above-average TV fare on Disney+ (or, I guess, some comics) until the world was ready for Black Widow…or at least a lot of the world. Calling them “most of the world” might be an overstatement considering the pandemic has not yet been called off in numerous countries and states. Alternatively, Disney+ subscribers who can’t wait for the home video release in October can cough up thirty bucks and slightly expand that virtual library of above-average TV fare.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover back in May, when ruminating on our family’s adoption process for new streaming services:
Our family prides itself on not being early adopters of new technology or services. We prefer to let upstart projects and products get up and running, figure out their processes, work out their bugs, set a price point that’s worth the venture, and build up a reputation, preferably a favorable one. Then we might give them the time of day. Maybe. Sometimes. Streaming services are subject to the same vetting procedure. The internet’s Baby Yoda obsession notwithstanding, we have yet to pull the trigger on Disney+…
All that changed Christmas evening. Everyone does the post-Christmas thing where they wait until all gift-giving is finished, then buy themselves a little something to compensate for any oversights or disappointments, right? Mine was springing for an upgrade to our existing Hulu With Five Tedious Commercials Repeated Ad Nauseum subscription. Now we can access the wonder and whimsy of Disney+. One day in the future I can at long last stop worrying about pervasive spoilers for The Mandalorian.
And what better way to test-drive our new channel than with the latest Pixar production? Soul was among the hundreds of major releases relegated to the once-ignominious fate of a direct-to-video release thanks to pandemic pandemonium. Technically it’s cheaper for viewers this way who have the wherewithal to let the fees sink into the morass of their monthly credit card charges, but on the downside, the wildly inventive score by the Oscar-winning duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross made me wish I could’ve seen this in a theater and immersed myself in the splendor of its music, apropos of the film’s own themes. Among other benefits, it might’ve better distracted me from a few things that bugged me as the film played on.
Of all the films to be released in theaters after March 2020, I’ve regretted missing none of them more than I’ve been regretting missing Bill & Ted Face the Music, the long-awaited reunion of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as good-natured rockin’ goofballs Bill S. Preston, Esq., and Ted “Theodore” Logan. The first two films were hilarious delights back in their day and, while I was prepared to live the rest of my life without a trilogy realized, years of negotiations with skeptical studios finally came together courtesy of original writers/creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, along with director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest). Thus did their dream come true in the worst possible year of this millennium.
From August onward I kept doggedly checking On Demand prices every weekend but was reluctant to pull the trigger on a $15-$20 home viewing experience. Fans of pay-per-view sports may be accustomed to that or far worse, but for that price, if I have to play it on my own inferior equipment, then I insist on physical custody. I was willing to go as high as maybe eight bucks, but they kept holding out on me. This past Tuesday The Powers That Be relented and BTFM finally materialized at Redbox. And for a most non-non-non-heinous price well under eight bucks.
Longtime MCC readers know the rule: every film I see in theaters gets its own entry. That rule hasn’t come up much lately because (previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover) our last theater experience was the first weekend of March. Entries about my home video consumption tend to be a no-fly zone for any kind of inbound traffic, but every so often I’ll ignore my blog stats and go for it anyway. Then again, that’s my approach to 90% of what I post here, so why hold my viewing habits to a tougher standard?
I do miss theaters. To a lesser degree I miss racking my brain for the occasional movie entry. I do go out on a limb for the occasional Netflix Original. And though I’ve only seen six previous Spike Lee films (that really should be higher), it seemed remiss to watch his new joint Da 5 Bloods and then do nothing else to engage with the experience.
I thought Harley Quinn was a pretty nifty addition to the wild world of Batman when she debuted on his animated series way back when I was in college. I was surprised DC Comics took as long as they did to bring her to the printed page. I lost interest in her shortly before she was anointed the Greatest DC Character of the Millennium and had a personal hype machine devoted to her. Some of our separation is my own fault; it’s a peculiar personal phenomenon that I tend to lose interest in an up-‘n’-coming character whenever they start feeling too popular.
I had several reservations about Suicide Squad, but Margot Robbie’s debut as a live-action Harley wasn’t among them. And yet, I wasn’t among the fans chanting “MORE! MORE! MORE! MORE! MORE!” when DC announced she’d return in Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. In my mind she’s in danger of becoming the kind of character that guest-stars in eight comics a month and overstays their welcome. We had a lot of those in the ’90s (Ghost Rider! Wolverine! Punisher! Lobo!) whose ubiquity turned me off. And yet, the Birds of Prey trailers managed to avoid any vibe resembling an Elektra or Catwoman-level failure.
My son and I showed up opening weekend, days before disappointed theater owners apparently banded together and decided it should be called Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey instead. I for one agree with this change, which more accurately reflects the film’s true contents of 90% Harley to 10% Birds. Too bad they couldn’t have made film retitling a standard practice back when Edge of Tomorrow failed to live down its empty soap-opera name.
One of MCC’s steadfast rules is that every film I see in theaters gets its own entry, for better or worse or in between. My wife Anne and I saw Roland Emmerich’s Midway on opening weekend because World War II history is among her greatest proficiencies. Theaters don’t screen as many WWII films as they used to back in ancient times, but when they do, we try to be there. For us they’re good excuses for am afternoon date, even when they’re not a good use of filmmaking funds or resources.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: six years ago Disney’s Frozen made a kajillion dollars, set off a new merchandising phenomenon, and inspired more than a few cosplayers at our favorite conventions. The cooled-down coterie is back for Frozen II, which was rightly deemed good enough for a theatrical release and not immediately consigned to Disney+ like that Lady and the Tramp do-over or the Teenage Kurt Russell Comedy Collection.