Avengers Endgame

(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 spoiler review video

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 »

Shazam - Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer

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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pet sematary spoiler review

(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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glass international trailer

“Please enjoy this film that took 19 years to make!”

This sentence greeted me as I sat down at a pre-release screening of Glass last week, as the final part of a letter from its writer/producer/director M. Night Shyamalan to the audience. The upshot of the letter was basically, “Please don’t spoil Glass” (which I’m about to do, so…sorry!) but I could not help but latch onto that last sentence as I steeled myself for the crossover between two of Shyamalan’s earlier films, Unbreakable and Split. As a fan of the former film, a meditation on loneliness as filtered through a comic-book lens, I was hopeful that this follow-up was worth the wait.

Now that I’ve seen Glass, I fear that it would’ve taken the director at least another 19 years to make this movie any good.

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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch isn’t the first movie to test the concept of a Choose Your Own Adventure-style narrative with diverging pathways on-screen. In late 2017 and early 2018, Steven Soderbergh did it with his murder mystery app and HBO movie, Mosaic. With its availability on the worldwide streaming service of Netflix, however, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch has taken the concept to a new level, giving a global viewing platform to a new kind of interactive cinematic storytelling.

In the movie, the viewer becomes a backseat driver for the main character, but while it might feel like you’re steering the story for a while, it soon becomes clear that Bandersnatch — to quote Lost — “has a way of course-correcting itself.” As it presents viewers with decisions, it doesn’t quite go all-in on the idea of a branching narrative with different conclusions. Instead, it wants to mix and match endings, showing you multiple outcomes without committing to any single one.

The movie prefers you to make certain choices over others, so much so that it will return you to those choices and give you a second chance to choose the right one, as it were. In a way, this goes along with the idea of a video game, with Pac-Man not giving up on reaching the final level even though he’s died. It also goes along with the age-old theme of free will versus determinism, which is something that Bandersnatch has on its mind. Let’s take a spoiler-filled look at the movie’s tangled decision web and examine how viewer missteps and system course-corrections enforce the notion of choice as an illusion.

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Runaways season 2 spoiler review

Out of all of Marvel’s properties, Runaways had arguably the hardest page-to-screen adaptation. There’s a lot of wacky shit going on in the comics, and all of that wouldn’t transition to screen well – especially in a live-action version. But for Season 2 of the Marvel drama, the series retools and grounds many of these elements, and the result is some of the company’s best television work. Read More »

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House That Jack Built spoiler review

(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: The House That Jack Built.)

It’s been five years since Lars Von Trier released Nymphomaniac, the bold and astonishing two-parter that figuratively put a period (or exclamation mark, if you rather) on the end of his filmography. Where does a provocateur like Von Trier go from there? What else is left to say? The answer is The House That Jack Built, a deranged, pitch-black comedy (yes, really) that explores the life of a narccisistic serial killer, played by Matt Dillon (again: yes, really).

As is typically the case with Von Trier, the story is far more thematically complex and layered than that short synopsis might suggest, and every bit as unsettling and occasionally brutal as you might expect. But is the director’s cut – which screened in theaters for one night only – as controversial as some have claimed?

Major spoilers to follow.

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