(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Stranger Things 3.)
When Netflix provided me with screeners to review Stranger Things 3, they included a laundry list of spoilers that could not, under any circumstance, be mentioned in the review. As a rule, I try to avoid any and all spoilers in a general review, but this list was daunting to say the least. Now, the cat is out of the bag. Stranger Things 3 dropped on July 4, and I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you went ahead and binged the entire season over the holiday weekend. That means its time to head back to Hawkins, and delve into the details that Netflix was so hellbent on keeping a secret.
Spoilers follow – obviously.
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In his novel White Noise, which won the National Book Award, Don DeLillo famously wrote of an “Airborne Toxic Event.” It almost sounds like a plot device from a superhero blockbuster. Think: Suicide Squad’s self-conscious recognition of the “swirling ring of trash in the sky” trope. The weakest part, visually, of Spider-Man: Far from Home — an otherwise super-enjoyable romp through the post-Endgame MCU — is its CG “Elementals.” These were glimpsed in trailers so it’s no big spoiler to say they’re part of the movie or that one of them does internally swirl in a ring-like formation.
What’s interesting about the Elementals is that they’re loosely based on Marvel Comics villains yet their function in Far from Home, beyond the obvious spectacle, is largely symbolic. Full of sound and fury, signifying something, they’re the superhero blockbuster equivalent of a tweetstorm. Cross-reference: DeLillo’s Airborne Toxic Event. Notwithstanding the recent victory of Thanos, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has struggled in some ways to bring to life its supervillains with as much panache as its heroes. In this one respect, the intellectual-property farm of Marvel Comics has never quite enjoyed its full harvesting potential for Marvel Studios.
Not to worry: Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is now batting 2-for-2, villain-wise, in his solo movie adventures. The media loves a good scene-chewing villain: can we agree on that? Rather than argue politics in a superhero movie review, let’s objectively consider the idea of an attention-grabbing public figure who consistently “cuts through all the static” — vast, continental clouds of white noise — to make sensational headlines. Is he the anointed one, this man? Can he be trusted with ultimate power? To talk about that, we’ll need to get busy with some spoilers for Spider-Man: Far from Home.
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In a perverse way, it makes sense that there are two films fighting for dominance in the middle of the musical biopic Rocketman. This story of the life and times of Elton John, sanctioned by the man himself, is unable to figure out whether it’s either a straightforward biopic in the vein of films like Walk the Line and Ray, or if it’s going to be a fantastical take on the English rocker’s songs, the same way that Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe re-contextualized the music of The Beatles. When Rocketman works — and it does work well enough that it deserves a mild recommendation — it’s because it leans far away from standard-issue storytelling. Like the performer, Rocketman is best when it lets its freak flag fly.
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Revealed at Comic-Con last July, the first trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters was glorious. The prospect of an elemental assault on the senses, wall-to-wall fights with 17 monsters — maybe even some poignant family drama — seemed to rise up before one’s ensorcelled eyeballs with every subsequent trailer.
If Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was the ultimate mechs-versus-monsters movie, then King of the Monsters promised to be the ultimate kaiju-versus-kaiju movie, a gift to Godzilla fans everywhere. Based on some of the early reactions as the movie drew nearer this May, I was expecting to be bludgeoned into submission by a repeating sledgehammer of kaiju action.
There’s some of that in the movie, though not as much as you might think. To talk about what works and what doesn’t in King of the Monsters, we’ll need to open a barrel of radioactive spoilers. Grab your hazmat suit, then, and let’s get to it before the earth unleashes a fever to fight “the human infection” and we all perish.
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(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Avengers: Endgame.)
The existence of film franchises goes back to some of the earliest days of cinema. Hollywood’s first talkie The Jazz Singer resulted in the sequel The Singing Fool. Horror hits like Frankenstein, and Dracula spawned Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Dracula, not to mention a whole series of monster movies from Universal Pictures. King Kong gave life to Son of Kong, and so on and so forth.
On the other hand, the blockbuster sequel as we know it today is still a relatively young invention of Hollywood. It’s evolving and changing, albeit slowly, as audiences look for something new and refreshing that feels just as familiar and comfortable as it does entertaining and exhilarating. And that’s exactly what makes Avengers: Endgame so damn special.
In our Avengers: Endgame spoiler review, we explore this heaping helping of Hollywood spectacle, how it both defies and leans into the tropes of your typical blockbuster sequel, enhances the hefty roster of films that came before it, and delivers a film that packs an equal amount of action, heart, comedy, and surprising but delightful fan service for those who have stuck with the Marvel Cinematic Universe for over 10 years. Read More »
With its second season, Cobra Kai does two things most viewers might not expect from a straight-to-YouTube Karate Kid sequel: it delivers stakes as high as Game of Thrones’, and it establishes Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) as one of the most fascinating and complicated characters since the likes of Walter White.
First: this is a spoiler review, so we’re going to get into some season-long reveals here. If you want a spoiler-free review, I wrote up the first two episodes out of SXSW here.
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Avengers: Endgame leave us with a lot to chew on, and we’re going to have plenty of spoiler-heavy articles for you in the coming days, including a written spoiler review on Monday morning. But if you’re looking to scratch that Endgame itch even sooner, I recorded a video review with David Chen from The /Filmcast giving our reactions to the film and diving into major spoilers for this record-breaking blockbuster. Check it out below. Read More »
Superhero movies rarely hide their climaxes this skillfully. Let’s keep it that way. Major spoilers for Shazam! follow.
Based on the trailers, Shazam! seems like “Big with superheroes,” with the bare presence of a mildly threatening villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). The actual film certainly fits this description, but it keeps secret some of its most alluring aspects, from Sivana’s true nature, to Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) backstory, to a third-act set piece so utterly delightful in concept that it seems too good to be true. And while Shazam! stumbles on its way to the finish, it earns its audaciously conceived climax, ripped straight from the pages of the Golden Age(with updated specifics from more recent comics) and re-created with gusto.
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(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Pet Sematary.)
How do you bring Pet Sematary back to life after so many people have grown familiar with its story? Be it through Stephen King‘s classic novel, or Mary Lambert’s 1989 film, audiences tend to know this tale of death and the undead inside and out. In an effort to bring Pet Sematary to a whole new generation, filmmakers Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have taken great liberties with the source material, crafting a movie that remains true to King’s essential spirit, while also working towards something new. The end result is a highly rewarding creepshow, boasting superior performances, unshakable scares, and a dread-inducing acknowledgment that sometimes, dead is better.
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Netflix’s The OA seemingly came out of nowhere when its first season dropped in December 2016 with little in the way of promotional pageantry save for some questionable last-minute tweets. Created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij — the duo behind the films Sound of My Voice and The East — the show almost literally became an overnight sensation thanks to its same-day release of eight easily binge-able episodes. Bizarre yet absorbing, perhaps earnest to a fault, it wore its aspirations on its sleeve, probing the mystery of near-death experiences and leading viewers on a merry chase through a garden of forking narrative paths.
Now The OA is back with a second season (“Part II”) that doubles down on all the eccentricity of the first and sees it joining the ranks of dimension-hopping shows with elaborate mythologies, such as Twin Peaks, Lost, The Leftovers, Legion, and Castle Rock. If you thought the sight of basement prisoners and cafeteria kids engaging in synchronized, choreographed “movements” (don’t call it interpretative dancing) was wacky and woefully ill-advised, The OA: Part II wants you to know that you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Have you been practicing the movements in front of the mirror at home for the last two-plus years? Has The OA: Part II left you scratching your head this week with its telepathic octopus digressions and yet another contentious, downright bonkers season finale? Fear not, recovering cult TV show watchers: we’ve got your exit counseling (with heavy spoilers) right here.
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