6/10 It’s finally here! After almost 20 years of development, 11 years of the character existing in the background, seven years of that with an infamously mangled backstory, and more than a year of pandemic-related delay, Black Widow finally has her own solo feature, and it’s another Marvel movie. It’s another Phase – man, I don’t even know what phase this is anymore – Marvel movie full of overwritten, over-crazy action sequences, smaller fight scenes that are unwatchable as a stylistic choice filled out by imitation-Joss Whedon dialogue.
Russian assassin Ylena Belova (Florence Pugh) is exposed to a synthetic gas that frees her from the chemical mind-control agent she and other widows are kept in check with. For safekeeping, she sends vials of the gas to Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson, who also produces executively), her government-assigned older sister and a defected former widow herself from an earlier version of the program that did not involve chemical mind control, who is currently a fugitive laying low in Norway after the events of Captain America: Civil War. The pair rendezvous in Budapest, where Romanoff thought she’d destroyed the program forever, to mass-produce the gas and finish the job, all while on the run from a small army of other widows.
3/10F9: The Fast Saga parks itself in a completely incomparable place in movie history. With a $70 million debut followed by a $29.1 million performance over the long Independence Day weekend, it is this movie that christens the post-pandemic era of the U.S. box office, not Black Widow, which released with a same-day streaming option, not Godzilla vs Kong in March, and certainly not Tenet, which attempted to spur a new wave of releases in September and failed. This is a once-in-a-lifetime – hopefully – flash photo of how we conceive of blockbusters at this point in history, both the movie that kick-started the box office after a year of dormancy and, more importantly, the franchise that was counted on to do it.
There’s no uncertainty about it anymore: this is what we want from movies now.
7/10 In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Snyder’s name famously appears before even the Warner Bros. logos. In the electric opening credits sequence for Army of the Dead – a depiction of the city falling to a zombie plague and being walled off set to “Viva Las Vegas,” regrettably the only time the movie actually makes use of its location and by far the best part of a quite decent film – writer/cinematographer/director/producer Zack Snyder’s name appears a whopping six times.
In Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, a military convoy traveling from Area 51 is sucked into a head-on collision by some newlyweds giving each other road head on the way to Las Vegas. This frees their cargo, a single zombie, who unleashes a plague on the nearby city, which must be walled off to contain the horde. Years later, with 96 hours left before the government nukes the problem away, casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) recruits Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to recover $200 million in cash still stashed in his vault beneath the Strip.
1/10New Order came out of the quiet 2020 film festival circuit heavily decorated with the Grand Jury Prize from the Venice International Film Festival and rapturous marketing that was, if anything, more than proportionate.
If only I’d done a bit of research before walking in.
Mexico City- As a seething mass of poor protestors overtakes the city, blocking infrastructure, murdering and marauding along the way, a rich family holds its wedding as planned, deliberately and forcefully unaware of the chaos until it is upon them. The Mexican army uses the riot as cover to establish a military dictatorship which is worse than the rioters in every way, with the corrupt military kidnapping, raping and murdering at will.
8/10Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is a riot. It’s a trashy, meat-and-potatoes genre piece that’s light on the meat, but it’s got an avalanche of potatoes, and that’s just fine.
The Italian Riviera- Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), suffering post-traumatic nightmares after the previous film, takes sabbatical away from guns and all manner of violence while he waits for his bodyguarding license to be renewed. Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek), also on the riviera for her honeymoon, pulls Bryce out of his peace to help rescue her husband, Bryce’s archnemesis Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). After a successful rescue, all three of them are blackbagged and blackmailed into working for Interpol in lieu of the critical mole they just killed to stop a plot to demolish the European power grid. They’ll intersect with this plot in a few different ways, but the Kincaids are mostly interested in returning to their honeymoon with Interpol’s money.