20 years of 9/11 in film

Image courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

The core ennui of being a ‘90s child is having to watch things disappear.

This is most easily tracked through technology. Within our childhoods, we watched playing outside with neighborhood kids, maybe one of whom had an N64, turn into a kaleidoscope of different gaming systems, most of them played in private, all major investments that needed to be upgraded every five years or so. These miraculous toys of the future, things we loved and grew up with that partially defined our social circles, became “obsolete” within the span of half of our lives, roadside attractions whooshing past backseat car windows as a technological race we knew nothing of sped onward. Mobile phones, monstrous things that could barely be held onto but still had to be considered luxury items because of how few could afford them, became sleek handheld flip phones we were given “for emergencies,” a major threshold for the American teenager comparable to what cars used to be that represented our first measure of privacy and critical dating tools, and they have since become glass sandwiches of varying size that are considered critical teaching tools with which we raise our own children with from birth. Computers and the internet went from science fiction to ubiquity seemingly overnight.

I was born in 1992, and having grown up through all this, I’ve always gravitated toward things that I can be comfortable will outlast me. These can be movies or classic literature and what they say about their time and place, news events that will go into history, or more often recently trying to directly seek out the spirit of a given place, that amalgamation of psychic energy that grows like a cancer anywhere people gather over time, but what underlies all of that is architecture. Architecture is the oldest form of mass media, of artistic expression that can affect an audience at scale. It defines the skyline, look and memory of a place, feeding and feeding from a city’s character, monoliths that inspire the art made in their shadows and can summon all the history of a place to mind with their single images.

9/11 was not just an attack on American soil, American people or the American psyche, but on American architecture. It was an attack of the American identity, on American engineering and artistry, on American permanence. What can anyone build now when titans such as these can be destroyed? What can I be sure will outlast me, what can a ‘90s child forever lost in time draw toward in a world where the twin towers are fallen?

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Crouching Marvel, hidden action

3/10 Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has a lot of good components, but they never really come together, and the put-together product is instead so forgettable you can sometimes forget you’re in the process of watching it. But the point wasn’t ever to make a good movie.

In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung) finds a set of power Hung Ga rings that turn him into an invincible immortal and becomes China’s greatest warlord, building an organization of bandits that somehow has no formal governmental power despite hundreds of years of military rule over Southwest China. In 1996, after centuries of this, Xu finally notices a woman and settles down to raise a family with her.

In the present day, Xu Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) lives in San Francisco, estranged from his father and sister, Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), when he’s suddenly attacked by Xu Wenwu’s assassins. Along with his life partner Katy (Awkwafina), Xu Shang-Chi returns to Macau to protect his sister and confront his father.

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‘Candyman’ reboot doesn’t capture moment after pandemic delays

Image courtesy Universal Pictures.

The Candyman reboot is a comprehensive media package, not just a movie, and the main problem is it doesn’t need to be. A two minute trailer covers most of the movie’s ground.

Cabrini-Green, Chicago, 2019- 30 years after the events of the first Candyman movie have passed into Chicago legend, Cabrini-Green is in the midst of a renaissance, with new luxury residential towers rising above what remains of the projects. Struggling painter Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) wanders the slums looking for inspiration and stumbles on the legend of Candyman – a mixture of the stories of Sherman Fields (Michael Hargrove), who is credited as becoming Candyman after being murdered by police and carrying out attacks that viewers will be familiar with as the work of Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd) from the original films. Looking into the story of Candyman, McCoy is swallowed by the dark chasm of the history of lynchings in Chicago and across the U.S.

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‘Reminiscence’ blends film’s past with apocalyptic future

Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

10/10 You shouldn’t trust me with Reminiscence. I’m weak to this film.

Miami- In the near future, the ocean has swallowed the city. It’s partially held back by a sea wall several stories high, but the streets that remain are permanently covered in a few inches of water. Personal tugboats have overtaken cars, and the city has formally become nocturnal, with banking and business hours at night, to escape the scorching days.

In this sunken city that scurries out of the sun, Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) runs a service that allows people to experience memories first-hand again, repurposing futuristic military interrogation technology for pleasure – though of course he makes his real money as a lie detector and interrogator for the court. In the wee hours of the night, a femme fatale called Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) walks into Bannister’s office looking for help remembering where she dropped her keys. She’s dressed to kill, but she only needs her eyes. Bannister becomes obsessed with her from there.

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‘Free Guy’ is a very strange movie

It doesn’t help how much this all looks like Pixels. Images courtesy 20th Century Studios.

2/10 Movies based on personal senses of humor are always hit-or-miss, and Free Guy is a huge, wild miss.

In the open-world video game Free City, Guy (Ryan Reynolds, who also produces), a non-player character who works as a teller at a bank that players constantly rob, begins to buck his programming and start fighting with player characters in ways he wasn’t designed to. His development turns out to be the key to a outlandish conspiracy about prior builds of the game – no one in the writers room on Free Guy had any idea how intellectual property or video game moderation or servers work, so I’m not even going to try to describe what’s going on. It’s all too far removed from reality to make sense in summary, and it doesn’t make any sense during the runtime either. The point is, Ryan Reynolds is here, and he’s got jokes.

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