#REVIEW: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

I’m going to try to write this review without whining about Avengers: Endgame, which … nope, finishing that sentence would be whining about Endgame. And I’m not doing that. This is an interesting movie; it simultaneously feels more stand-alone than a lot of the MCU’s recent product and is pretty thoroughly tied into the universe, to the point where I keep rewriting this sentence because I can’t come up with a version of it that I feel makes sense. There are a lot of characters in this movie from other MCU films, several of whom we haven’t seen in a long time, and the movie actually reaches back to the MCU’s earliest films in some ways, but the bulk of the film explores a distant enough corner of the MCU that it feels like its own thing.

We finally got around to streaming it last night; we still aren’t doing movie theaters, and it just became available to stream last Friday, when we were out of town.

(stares for ten minutes)

… holy shit, I don’t want to write this.

OK, super short version: this is a good movie. Its ties to the wider MCU only annoyed me twice, both with mentions of that other movie that seems to have completely killed my desire to invest any further emotional energy into this franchise that I used to love. Simu Liu and Awkwafina (who I think I’m not supposed to approve of, but I don’t remember why?) are both delightful, and Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh are awesome. It takes a good twenty minutes before a white person gets a line, and it’s like four words long, and I think the guy who has the line is the only white person in the entire movie who ever speaks, which is super cool.

(If you’ve seen the movie, you might be thinking “what about that guy,” who I’m not naming because spoilers, and he’s not white. Look him up if you need to.)

(Okay, there are two cameos at the very end of the movie of other MCU people in the stingers. They count, I suppose.)

This movie does a lot of cool things, and moves in a lot of unexpected ways, to the point where my wife paused it at the halfway point and said, with more than a trace of awe in her voice, that she had not been able to predict even a single thing that had happened in the movie to that point, and that she had no idea where the hell it was going, which was a hell of a thing, especially for a superhero movie. It manages to be a very small, personal movie and have the main character save the world at the end, which doesn’t happen all that often.

And, like, okay, I just said I didn’t want to write the review and then wrote four paragraphs after the words “super short version,” but I can’t escape the feeling that no one really needs anyone else’s opinions on Marvel films anymore. Like, are there people out there who only watch some of these? People who saw, like, Iron Man 2 and Doctor Strange and Black Widow and that was it? Maybe watched the middle two episodes of Loki but otherwise haven’t dipped into the TV shows? You already know you’re going to see Shang-Chi, or you know you’re not going to; there’s no one out there who is going to be, like, “Oh, Luther liked the 30th Marvel movie, so I guess I’ll check it out too.”

I mean, I guess if you aren’t into superheroes but you like martial arts movies, this is worth a look? I don’t think I’d actually call it a martial arts movie despite the main character, but I thought the action was pretty damn well shot– the director has a good sense of space and you can always tell what’s going on and where everyone is relative to everyone else, and there aren’t any scenes where the action is dark and muddled so that it looks Cinematic, which is an absolute plague on moviedom. The movie looks really good, and everyone is very pretty, and ok maybe some of the CG is a little dodgy here and there– there are some lion-things that, frankly, look stuffed– but whatever. And I spent the entire movie wondering if I should have some idea who the character on the far right of that image up there was and never figured it out. But that’s the best I can do in terms of criticisms. The biggest problem with this movie is that it’s a Marvel movie, and the best thing about this movie is that it’s a Marvel movie, and yes those are both true at once, and I’m heading back into being tired again so I’m going to bring this to a close.

Happy Thanksgiving, by the way, and in observance of our ancient traditions, I close by presenting you with this:

#REVIEW: DUNE (2021)

I think the most damning thing I can say about Dune is that even now that I’ve started typing I kind of want to bail on the idea of writing a review.

I am more of a Dune fan than most people but not very much of a Dune fan, if that makes any sense. I have read (and, to be clear, enjoyed) the original novel four or five times, maybe, most recently within the last couple of years, but have never picked up any of the sequels, a fact I consider rectifying every year and never do. Over the last few days I’ve seen lots of people pretending the novel is terribly complex and difficult to read and I don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s long, yeah, but it’s perfectly readable. I have not seen the 1980s original film, either, although my wife keeps threatening to make me watch it, and is probably going to ramp up her campaign now that we’ve watched this one. Frankly, were she not interested in seeing the new film, I wouldn’t have watched it.

It’s … meh.

It’s pretty. It’s got an awesome sense of scale; anytime you’re looking at something that’s supposed to be real real big there’s always something in frame to make it clear just how colossal whatever you’re looking at is. And if I stop typing right now, I can move on with the process of forgetting that I saw it, which I suspect will take all of a day or two. Even complaining about it for a few more paragraphs will give my dislike of the movie more weight than it deserves; I barely have the energy right now to point out the bits that I didn’t like. I mean … bullet points? And not worrying about complete sentences? Sure, let’s try that.

  • The casting is terrible. Every actor is either bad, distracting, or Timothée Challawhatever, who is not remotely heroic. Why is Drax in this?
  • Jessica always, always, always crying
  • Slooooooow-mooooooooo. If they’d cut half of the slow-motion they could have included some, like, context for this nonsense
  • This movie is very serious
  • The phrase “my boy!” is 50% of Jason Momoa’s dialogue and he somehow isn’t even pretty in this movie
  • Terrible pacing. At one point they cut away from a plane crash so we can have a brief scene of a fat man taking a bath.
  • The fat man isn’t even fat enough. I’m fatter than this guy. I want my levitation belt.
  • brown
  • The Gom Jabbar scene is the best part of the book and Chalamet looks like he’s struggling to hold off an orgasm for half of it
  • half the film is inappropriately-timed dream sequences
  • The Harkonnens are, like, cartoonishly evil on a level with Cobra Commander and Skeletor
  • bleh

I mean, see it if you want to, I suppose, it’s not going to, like, hurt or anything, unless you see it in a theater and get Covid-19, and man, dying because you went to see Dune has to be the worst way to go ever.

Go watch this trailer

For someone who doesn’t actually buy Batman comic books, I am surprisingly purist about the character, and haven’t liked a Batman movie in … well, since 1989, and I’m pretty sure if I revisited the original Batman I wouldn’t like it any more. So I’m surprised that I’m vibing with the trailers for this one. Quite surprised, honestly, because: are they genuinely going for the angle that Batman is a psychopath here? Is that what’s happening? The comics have made the idea either text or subtext for a long time– that Batman is just the mirror image of his villains, and that it’s pure coincidence or luck that he turned out to be the good guy in the equation– but I don’t recall that the movies have played with it very much. But Robert Pattinson’s Batman really comes off as nuts.

And absolutely ridiculously bulletproof, too, but that’s a whole different conversation.

I still want a film noir Batman movie set in the 1920s, by the way. I’ll never, ever get it, but I want it.

Three Trailers

It has been … a day, and I find that I’m not in the chattiest mood tonight. So let’s talk about some stuff that’s coming out.

The Eternals

This trailer is the first thing I’ve seen from this movie that gave me even the vaguest interest in seeing it. I’m still not going near a theater– this and Shang-Chi are going to have to wait until they’re available on Disney+ for me to watch them– but this actually made me think for a few seconds that I might have some interest in seeing it. There was never any chance that I was actually going to skip the thing, and I still don’t know a damn thing about any of the characters, but at least it’s on my radar as a mild positive and not a thing that I have to put up with.

Star Wars: Visions

Given my lifelong disdain of anime and my utter inability to get into any of the Star Wars animated projects no matter how hard I’ve tried, you would think that this show would have no appeal for me, and I am as surprised as you are to announce that you would be completely wrong in thinking that. I am all in. I don’t know if this is in canon or not– I feel like lightsaber umbrella might be a concept best left out of the official SW universe– but I’m genuinely excited about this, for the novelty if nothing else.

Speaking of novelty …

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

I’m including this out of sheer schadenfreude. I liked the Kevin Smith Netflix thing well enough, although it didn’t change my life and I’m not chewing my nails over the second half of the season. But He-Man nerds got all bent out of shape about that, and then the next thing Netflix throws at us is this? As I’ve said many times, I have no real skin in this game, but even I was looking at this by the end and thinking maybe they’d gone a bit too far. Seriously make Battle Cat a dog who turns into a wolf and say it’s inspired by He-Man. Call him Boy-Dude or something.

I am seriously looking forward to the fanboy tears, though.

#REVIEW: James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad (2021)

It might be useful, before reading my review of the movie called The Suicide Squad, to read a review of another movie that came out in 2016 that was just called Suicide Squad. You are sort of expected to pretend that that movie didn’t happen, even though this movie has several of the same characters portrayed by the same actors and is more or less the exact same movie in terms of the overall story. This is, in some ways, the movie equivalent of a comic book series getting a new #1 issue; yeah, it’s the same people, mostly, and the same idea, mostly, but you can start fresh here if you want to.

Here is the tl;dr review: just like the first movie, this movie is exactly what you think it’s going to be, and if that’s the sort of thing you like, you will like it. You might like it a little more than the first one.

A slightly longer version: The main difference between this movie and the first movie is that this one is (as I remember, at least) a hell of a lot gorier, although it’s always played for laughs if that’s worth anything to you, and James Gunn’s insistence on overusing vocal music as part of the score. The actors are probably of slightly higher quality (hell, Idris Elba and Peter Capaldi are in it) and King Shark is better than any individual element of the earlier Suicide Squad, although I’d have liked them to find a way to give him more underwater scenes. The rivalry between Elba’s Bloodshot and John Cena’s Peacemaker (I think?) is fun, and somehow Polka Dot Man is not only in this movie but he and a girl who can control rats are its emotional heart. I don’t know how that happened but it’s true. This is the third or fourth movie Margot Robbie has played Harley Quinn in, and she fully inhabits the character at this point and I love it.

Fascinatingly, despite lots of actual murdering happening on screen, this movie comes off as much happier and heroic than the Murderverse movies. So that’s a plus too.

Don’t go to a movie theater and get Covid to see this or anything, but HBO Max is cheaper than a pair of movie tickets in most places.