Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
A lot's happened since we last saw the Guardians of the Galaxy (well, besides their brief cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder). Writer/director James Gunn was fired from Marvel in 2018 after some problematic tweets joking about pedophilia were unearthed, in one of the few instances of a successful cancellation from the right wing. Of course, it didn't last long, considering how thin the ground was for said cancellation in the first place; and in the interim, he swanned off to DC, made the fantastic The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, and eventually found himself sharing the throne of a newly-revamped DC movie universe. Continue Reading →
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
One thing you can say about Christmas and the Guardians of the Galaxy is that both tend to go a bit over the top. One’s affection for either depends greatly on how you feel about a good thing taken to excess. For this critic, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special hits that delicious “too much, but I can’t help but like it” sweet spot like seconds on the pecan pie. Continue Reading →
Thor: Love and Thunder
It's no understatement to say that Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok was a welcome shot in the arm for both the titular God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. There's something to be said for cutting out the creaky Shakespearean grandeur of the first two Thors in favor of whiz-bang sitcom theatrics, with a dash of Guardians of the Galaxy's signature irreverence thrown in, all leather and ironic needle-drops and "well that happened"s. The result was a whiz-bang sci-fi action comedy that made a buttload of cash, extended Thor's lease on cinematic life, and catapulted Waititi into Hollywood's A-list. Continue Reading →
Jurassic World Dominion
In the video game version of the original Jurassic Park for the Sega Genesis, you can choose to play the side scroller as either Dr. Grant or a Velociraptor. Of course, you choose the raptor almost every time because dinosaurs are cooler than humans. It’s a great lesson for making a fun video game, but not for making a successful movie franchise. Continue Reading →
Strangers with Candy
Philip Seymour Hoffman could’ve been a comedian, or at the very least, a character actor known solely for comedic roles. In Twister and later Along Came Polly, he played loud supporting parts so effectively that they enriched their movies as a whole. He didn’t just know how to be hilarious, he committed to his work in comedies with the same rigor that illuminated recursive nightmares and won him an Oscar. That said, not every comedy Hoffman showed up in brought the house down. Strangers With Candy is almost entirely incomprehensible, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if it wasn’t so constantly offensive. Continue Reading →
Pixar gets back to its tear-jerking roots with an emotionally complex modern fantasy about grief, loss, and brotherhood.
Early in Pixar's Onward, lanky, nerdy elf Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) retreats from a harrowing day of school into his bedroom, sitting at his desk where he's effectively erected a shrine to his father. He never met his dad; the man died of illness before Ian was born. All that's left of him are a collage of photographs, which gaze lovingly at the lens (and, by extension, Ian), but without context. The only recording of his dad's voice is a rambly outtake from a tape recorder, a one-sided conversation Ian pretends to fill in with his own words. When we lose someone, especially someone we never got to have in the first place, we do what we can to emulate that experience as best we can. It may not be real, but it's the best we get. And sometimes, it can blind us to the people who are actually around us.
That's the scene that finally began to unlock Pixar's Onward for me, a film whose kitschy ads and Dreamworks-level character designs made me fear the worst for the acclaimed studio's output. Pixar's long been known for their original tear-jerkers (it's easy to forget that Inside Out and Coco are two of their best films, released only in the last five years), but their continued mining of their existing franchises for whatever narrative meat is left on the bone -- and, let's be real, toy sales -- has diluted the brand somewhat. It's pleasing to say, then, that Onward, while not Pixar's best, will absolutely hit you in those finely-tuned heartstrings.
The premise is somewhere between Zootopia, Frozen and Dungeons & Dragons -- imagine a Tolkien-esque fantasy world where the various races of the realm went all-in on industrialization and abandoned the wonder of magic for the reliability and convenience of electricity, automobiles, and urban development. (The timeline's admittedly a little janky, and the film can't quite settle on how long ago this cultural switch happened, but just go with it.) Enter the Lightfoots, a family of elves living their lives in the suburbs: the painfully anxious Ian, his RPG-loving screwup brother Barley (Chris Pratt), and their overworked mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). They're getting by, but the absence of the boys' father clearly weighs on them. Ian's in desperate need of courage, and Barley loses himself in fantasy games (which just so happen to recount the world's real history) to avoid the real responsibility of adulthood. Continue Reading →