Mystery Men (1999)

With 2021 being poised to be the biggest year of comic book movies/shows ever, I wanted to revisit a film that was base don a comic book that kind of flew under the radar in the early days of the comic book movie renaissance. Mystery Men was based loosely on Dark Horse’s Flaming Carrot Comics.

A group of wannabe superheroes, Mister Furious (Ben Stiller), The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) and The Shoveler (William H. Macy) are on the streets of Champion City doing their best. Unfortunately, their best has not been very good. A run-in with the local star superhero Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) at an old folks home made it even more obvious.

However, Captain Amazing had done such a great job of superheroing that crime was at an all time low and he was becoming bored. So Captain Amazing worked to get his old nemesis, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) released from the the insane asylum so he had an opponent to make headlines with. Casanova Frankenstein captured Captain Amazing and the villain planned on causing massive damage to the city.

Mister Furious saw Captain Amazing’s capture and he, along with his friends, recruited more super heroes, including Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), The Spleen (Paul Reubens) and the Sphinx (Wes Studi). Together the team had to overcome their internal strife in order to save the city.

There are a lot of really fun moments in this movie, which is filled with original characters that have great chemistry with one another. The reason this works so well is that the cast is clearly having a blast playing these off-the-wall characters. Reports indicated that several of the cast were given leeway to adlib their dialogue to add bits to their characters and, since there are several comedians in the cast, it worked pretty fluidly.

There were some shocking moments in the film as well, directly from the potentially incompetence of the heroes. Another example is the fact that The Bowler had her father’s (Carmine the Bowler) skull in her bowling ball. This was shown more clearer than the fate of Captain Amazing. The film has my respect for the risks that it took.

It is a fun and entertaining film that showcases its talent extremely well.

The Empty Man (2020)

I will be honest, the main reason that I watched this film, a film that was released originally in October of 2020 and just now released on streaming in January was that it came from Boom! Studios. Boom! is a company that also puts out comic books and is the company that is responsible for one of my favorite, if not my favorite, comic of the last few years, Something is Killing the Children. I discovered that The Empty Man is another horror based graphic novel that was released by Boom! Despite its low reaction on Rotten Tomatoes, I was now intrigued.

What I got was a bizarre, overly-long, supernatural horror film that had some truly big ideas and an ending that I am not sure about how I feel.

The Empty Man started with four friends climbing in the mountains. One of them, Paul (Aaron Poole) heard a whispering and wound up falling into a crevice. When he friends found him, they discovered that Paul had slipped into a comatose state despite not having any apparent injury. The fearsome skeleton that also was in this crevice should have given them a clue.

Then, the next day, Paul found himself, somehow, on the edge of one of the cliffs, blowing into a pipe of some kind. Then, unexpectedly, his three friends kill each other and they fall off the cliff. I have to say that I was not expecting that and I immediately was not sure what this movie was going to be about. Then the title came up and I could not believe that this was just the cold open. It had been a significant amount of time, but we had not yet gotten into the meat of the story.

We then meet James Lasombra (James Badge Dale), a former policeman who had left his job to grieve the death of his wife and son, who had died in a car crash. A friend of his, Nora (Marin Ireland), called him when her daughter Amanda (Sasha Frolova) had disappeared. An ominous message saying that “The Empty Man made me do it” was written in blood on her bathroom mirror.

The police were little help, so James decided to do some of his own investigating, connecting this to a doomsday cult in which he was afraid that Amanda had fallen into.

The movie is very atmospheric and darkly imagined. The imagery of the movie certainly played like the scenes of a dark, horror graphic novel. It was disturbing and, at times, frightening. The mystery of what was going on during this whole time was difficult to follow but does have a distinct wrap up.

The performances were fine, but I would not say that anything was a true standout. The short appearance of Steven Root as the cult leader was appropriately creepy, but the rest of the film lacked any true standouts.

There is no doubt that the movie is just too long and could have stood to be shorted by a good 30 minutes or so. At 2 hours and almost 20 minutes, The Empty Man can be a slog at times to get through. There are some really good moments here, but it gets bogged down. The lengthy run time needed more character development to truly be necessary.

It does not end in a feel good manner, so if you are expecting that, you will be disappointed. That is never a deal breaker for me, but I have to admit that I wanted some optimism in the conclusion somewhere.

It was not an unpleasant watch, but I am not sure that it is what I was hoping for. Though stylistic, I think I wanted more substance in the middle, especially for the length that it was.

2.75 stars

Outside the Wire

Netflix had a huge year in 2020 with a list of great movies released on the streaming service. 2021 is not starting out well for them.

Outside the Wire is the new sci-fi/action film starring Anthony Mackie. Set in the future, a drone pilot Lt. Harp (Damson Idris) disobeys orders and he makes a dangerous decision that winds up getting himself into trouble and sent to a specific place as a punishment. There, he meets Captain Leo (Anthony Mackie), an android officer, who is on his way for a mission to stop a Russian insurgent from getting nuclear codes.

While there are some decent action bits in the movie with some interest fire fights, there was little emotional depth to any of them, which tends to make them both hard to care about and easily forgettable. Typing this up right now just a few hours after watching the film, I cannot remember any specific action sequence worth the time in Outside the Wire.

Then, while Anthony Mackie is a charismatic actor with a remarkable screen presence, the film places him in a character that simply is not allowed to do that. There are a few flashes of Mackie’s charm here and there, but he is more of a hard nosed robot than a leading man. Damson Idris is shown in the first half of the movie in such an inconsistent manner that you’re never sure if you are meant to be rooting for the character or if he is meant to be the one learning about his own mistakes. He was very dislikable for much of the run time of the movie, which is not a good choice in the story that they are outlining.

The third act completely blows off the rails too. The first part of the film was dull and disposable, but the final half of the movie spends its time deconstructing just about everything that the movie set up in the first part. Without spoilers, there are some decisions made that make no sense and exist to simply give the narrative that twist that too many movies are expected to have.

By the way, there are not really any reason for the military to have these robots they called Gumps. In fact, much of the sci-fi aspects of this movie are extraneous and a waste of time. This does not have to be a sci-fi story. In fact, Anthony Mackie did not even need to be an android. All of the science fiction could be removed and the story could still work exactly as it is as a strictly action movie.

Unfortunately, this is a film that you won’t remember too long after you see it. I am sure that in December of this year, I will look at the title of the movie and wonder exactly what this was about.

2.2 stars

One Night in Miami (2020)

Regina King has been on a massive role recently with the projects that she has acted in, from If Beale Street Could Talk to HBO’s Watchmen. She has done a lot of television directing as well and this movie, One Night in Miami, was her feature film directorial debut.

One Night in Miami is a fictionalized story of one night in Miami when four black iconic superstars met together and discussed their lives and their place in history. The four icons were Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) [pre Muhammad Ali], Sam Cooke (Leslie Odam Jr), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) who were together in a hotel room on the night when Clay defeated Sonny Liston to become the champion of the world.

This was another movie that was based on a stage play, this time written by Kemp Powers. There have been several successful films recently that have been base don plays and this falls right into the line with those. Because One Night in Mimi takes place mostly within the room with the four men and it features some stellar dialogue and discussions between these characters.

And that was great.

There were limited amount of action, and, truly, the plot was not the focus of the film either, the performances were wonderful and the drama between the four of them kept the viewers glued to the screen. I know I was fascinated to hear where they took it from here. The main conflict seemed to stem from Malcom X’s desire to have Sam Cooke do more than just record fluff musical pieces and the wish that he would do more substantive work for the Civil Rights movement. While Clay and Brown got into disagreements as well, the interactions between Malcolm X and Cooke were the main event.

The direction was stunning as well. Regina King does a fantastic job with the shots, giving so much more depth to the hotel room than what you would expect a director could. With the limited settings, King is anything but restricted with her vision of the evening’s activities.

One Night in Miami is smart, compelling and feels very relevant in the ways of power and how one may yield it to benefit everyone. All four actors give tremendous performances, especially Leslie Odam Jr. and Kingsley Ben-Adir, who go at each other with a ferocity unexpected. This is an amazing debut for Regina King.

4 stars

WandaVision Episode 1 &2

SPOILERS for WandaVision

I was very excited this morning to see the premiere of the first two episodes of Marvel Studios new Disney + series, WandaVision. I am, of course, a huge mark for Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it has been too long since Spider-Man: Far From Home. That was the last time that we had any new content from the studio. With Covid-19 playing chaos with the schedule, the anticipation for this show only grew. I am pleased to say that the anticipation was well worth it. I loved WandaVision and I am completely on board with what they are starting.

However, I can understand if there are people out there who will not love this as much as I do because there is no denying that this is Marvel Studios taking a huge swing and taking their universe into a direction that you have never seen before. It is totally weird, original, unexpected…all in the best ways.

When the people at Marvel Studios said that this was going to be a sitcom, they were telling you the truth. The first two episodes are clearly reminiscent of the TV days of I Love Lucy, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, right down to the laugh track. The black and white helped set the tone of the series and it is unlike anything Marvel has tried up until now. It is a real gutsy move from Marvel to have this series be the first one out of the gate for the Disney + shows.

The show is an homage to the black and white sitcoms of the 50s and 60s. I was always a huge fan as a child of the reruns of these kind of shows so I enjoyed honoring them by including the sitcom tropes into this 2021 series. Plots of having to host a surprise dinner with the boss or perform at a city talent show are the type of plots one might have seen on these sitcoms.

WandaVision - Season 1 - Episodes One and Two TV Show Review

Elizabeth Olson and Paul Bettany are absolute joys. They are clearly having a blast with these characters being placed in this setting. And they do it without sacrificing what made Wanda and Vision the fan favorite characters that they are. They fit seamlessly into the framework that the show is going for and I expect that their performances will only increase as the show progresses.

Kathryn Hahn as the nosy next door neighbor Agatha is a beautiful touch to the series. Her character is starting out as a trope herself, but there is so much more that is under the surface with Agatha that I am excited to see where this character is taken. I also loved having Debra Jo Rupp, a veteran of sitcoms from That 70s Show, appear as one of the women in the town of Westview. These touches really help to make WandaVision feel like a sitcom of the 1950s.

Kathryn Hahn Interview: WandaVision | Screen Rant

However, there are subtle (and some not so subtle) hints that there is something sinister going on with the show. It is not going to remain just a sitcom paying tribute to the days of TV lore. I would go as far as to say that there were a couple of distinctly creepy moments of reality among the black and white façade. When Mr. Hart (played by Fred Melamed) was choking, I was totally creeped out. There was a puppetmaster feel to the situation, as if someone was forcing him to choke, and the looks on the faces of Wanda and Vision truly helped cement the scene as bizarrely intense.

The appearance of the mysterious Beekeeper near the end of episode two was a moment that was really out there. The show does a remarkable job in such a few short, quick scenes of building the mystery of exactly what is happening to two of our favorites from the Avengers. There was also the radio that was asking Wanda what was happening. Another subtle point was the feel that the crowd at the talent show of people from Westview were more like the Stepford wives than we had expected. And the end of episode one with the person watching on the TVs gave a LOST vibe (and you know how much that hits with me).

The beekeeper in the wandavision trailer is a SWORD agent! : marvelstudios

When the second episode ended, I immediately wanted more. While I have been leaning more towards shows that are weekly in nature instead of the binge, WandaVision might have just made me reconsider that.

Oh, and I did not even mention the commercials. Yes, there is a commercial for each episode and I wonder how they may play into the narrative. A mini oven made by Stark Industries or a watch made by Strucker? The whole Strucker reference was great, since Baron von Strucker played a huge part in Wanda’s past.

I cannot wait until next Friday.

WandaVision' Review: First Marvel TV Series on Disney Plus | TVLine

The Addams Family (1991)

There have been several adaptations of the original cartoon created by Charles Addams in 1938. One of the best known, of course, is the TV show featuring John Astin. However, the big screen eventually called as well and The Addams Family arrives, creepy and kooky.

Admittingly, the sequel to this film, Addams Family Values, is considered a better overall film, this 1991 film version had plenty of positives going for it, starting off with a strong cast. Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston were perfectly cast as the head of the family, Gomez and Morticia Addams. Christopher Lloyd was cast as Gomez’s estranged brother Fester. Christina Ricci, a star in the making, stole the show as the psychotic Wednesday Addams.

There were some wonderfully dark and gloriously funny moments throughout the film as Gomez and his “brother” Fester were reunited after a desperate fight from their youth. However, Fester was not what he appeared, as the audience was aware. He was the son of Abigail Craven (Elizabeth Wilson), and he just happened to look exactly like Fester. They plotted, along with Gomez’s family lawyer Tully (Dan Hedaya), to have Fester pretend to have returned in order to get their hands on the Addams family treasure.

This led to a series of very funny bits. However, most of the best comedic moments were stand alone moments or side scenes. For example, Wednesday is electrocuting her brother Pusgley (Jimmy Workman), the tour of the Addams graveyard or Thing getting a job.

The problem with the film, which does make it lesser than Addams Family Values, is that the story itself it disjointed and does not blend well together. The coincidental aspect of the film, especially the resolution of the story, is hard to buy. Overall the plot feels as if it could require some tightening.

However, the cast and their performances are great and the humor really works most of the time that The Addams Family is a fun watch that does hold up over the years. The effects for the time are fine and being funny helps to cover any holes that might be in the plot. The sequel is better, but this is a solid start.

Apollo 13 (1995)

One of my favorite Ron Howard movies of all-time, Apollo 13 does a tremendous job of telling the story of a “successful failure” for NASA in 1970.

The true story of the crew and their families of the Apollo 13 moon mission made a truly dramatic and thrilling film, anchored by an amazing cast of actors. The cast included Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton as the three-man crew of the Apollo 13, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, respectively. The cast also included Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Kathleen Quinlan, Xander Berkeley, Christian Clemenson, and Jean Speegle Howard.

In 1970, the Apollo 13 mission launched with the intention of landing on the moon. The space program had started to become less interesting to the public at large with the space race with the Russians over. Still, the mission was scheduled. Two days prior to the departure, intended pilot Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) was grounded because of his potential exposure to measles. Replacing Ken with Jack Swigert, Apollo 13 continued on its path.

Unfortunately, during the routine stirring of the oxygen tank, an explosion severely damaged the space shuttle and put the astronauts’ survival into question. Working with a desperate purpose, NASA tried to return the crew safely back to earth.

There are a couple of thing to say about Apollo 13 right off the bat. First, this movie does a remarkable job of creating tension and anxiety in a situation where we already know turned out to be a success. As the crew was making their reentry through the planet’s atmosphere, I was on the edge of my seat despite knowing that they made it in real life. In fact, every time I have watched this movie, I have tears in my eyes when they make it back. The film and its crew do an unbelievable job of building that uncertainty despite our prior knowledge. A big part of that, I think, has to be the score from James Horner. It does a fantastic job of amping up the mood of the film for the audience.

A second major win Apollo 13 has going for it was how it was able to take what could have been boring technical sections and turned them into exhilarating scenes. Whether it be Ken Mattingly in the simulator or Jack restarting the engines, these technically charged moments were thrilling as any.

The special effects of the film are great. It does some of the best work at portraying the environment of outer space and its effects on the characters. The film looked great, but it was not over-the-top with its effects. The effects played well into the story of this crew and their survival tale.

The use of real-life news footage was expertly woven into the film, and the movie brilliantly transported us back in time to 1970s, not only in word, but in tone. Everything about this film felt accurate and of the time, which is an achievement.

Apollo 13 is a tremendously entertaining and engaging movie that holds the audience’s attention with a great script, powerful actors and characters who are using their intelligence to solve literal life and death problems.

Possessor (2020)

Brandon Cronenberg, the son of David Cronenberg, brings this horror/thriller film from last year that I had not seen. I had heard a lot of positives about this movie, so I decided that it would be a good time to visit this film.

Andrea Riseborough played Tasya Vos, an assassin for a government agency, who is able to take over the body of a random person and use that person to be the killer. When she heads into a male man’s body (Christopher Abbott), there became problems with his life bleeding through into her life.

The film is extremely violent and bloody, with some distinct moments that jump out at the viewer.

Honestly, this was not my favorite film. I had heard so much positives about it that I found myself more disappointed by what was happening. I did not hate the film and there are some decent parts of the film, but I had a hard time getting into it.

There are some interesting concepts here and some themes that could be intriguing if you have some time to look at them. There are some sexual orientation ideas presented when Tasya entered the body of Colin. Some of the ideas of the character of Tasya was fascinating too, but I just did not love the blood, which felt overdone.

Perhaps if I took more time to look closer at the film, I would feel different about it. Still, Possessor was fine. Horror fans will probably love this. I thought it was passable.

Honestly, this was the first of two movies I watched in a row and I had a difficult time remembering exactly what the movie was about. That was not a good thing.

2.75 stars

The Dissident

This is the latest documentary from the Oscar winning director Bryan Fogel. It tells the dramatic story from 2018 about the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey by agents of the Saudi government.

This documentary was extremely powerful and disturbing. The film presents its story much like a political thriller, with mood-inducing music and dramatic interviews of the people involved.

The main arc of the tale is told through the eyes of a couple of the major people involved. First , there was Omar, a Saudi national and activist, who had befriended Khashoggi. Together, they had engaged in an effort to counteract the Saudi’s propaganda techniques on Twitter and other social media platforms.

Second main person, bringing this murder plot its human connection, is Khashoggi’s fiancé Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside of the consulate for Khashoggi on the fateful day. Khashoggi had gone to the consulate for paperwork allowing the pair to be married and Hatice waited hours outside for him to return. He never did.

The most difficult part of the movie was the audio transcript that had been uncovered that spelled out the murder in specifics, including the record of the use of the bonesaw to cut up the body. Even in written word, this created a horrid picture of what had happened that will stick with a viewer.

This documentary feels very relevant in the world today. Not only because of the alleged involvement of the Saudi government and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, but also for the attempt from the Saudi government to silence the free speech of a journalist. It is important to understand how easily freedom of speech can be removed, especially when you have attacks on the media designed to undermine what the media said or to dub them as “enemies.” It feels as if it is a short step from that to this.

And after all of the film is over, the text at the end that tells you where everything stands is infuriating. It makes you wonder what the important things in the world truly are.

The Dissident is an important story told in a engaging and professional manner. It has a powerful, human story that should move right thinking people emotionally. Fogel has another substantial and forceful doc.

Cobra Kai Spoilers

Over the last year or so, I have not watched as much television as I used to watch. It was as much for time reasons as anything else. In fact, I have put a definitive limit on binging. I used to binge series a lot, but now, it is very light.

The TV shows that I have moved towards are those such as The Mandalorian, which is released on a weekly basis. Actually, I am not sure what the last series I binged was. Again, it had to do with the commitment of time required to binge a show on a weekend.

I had watched season 1 of Cobra Kai on YouTube Red and I enjoyed it quite a bit. However, season 2 had fallen into that no binge thing that I have been doing. It just did not fit into what I wanted to see. Even when it wound up on Netflix, season two had not enticed me.

2021 stared with Cobra Kia season 3 dropping on Netflix. I had heard some positives about it, but I had not seen season 2, so there was a roadblock. Saturday, I looked at the episode count and time for Cobra Kai season 2. It was only 10 episodes and they ranges around 30 minutes. That was not bad so I decided I might take a look at season 2, at least an episode or two, just for a flavor.

I wrapped up season 2 that Saturday night.

It was so good and so easy to binge that I found myself going to the next episode easily. I also chose to start on season 3 immediately, which I finished Sunday morning.

I have to admit that there were some things that I had to get past to enjoy the show. For example, during the beginning of the huge Cobra Kai vs. Miyagi-Do fight at the high school, I kept thinking how unrealistic this was. Where were the teachers? Why had the police not arrived by now? How is this being allowed to escalate to this point? These kind of questions were bugging me at first. Then, I understood. I suspended my disbelief over what was happening and just let the story be told without the constant nitpicking, and I found that fight to be hugely entertaining with amazing consequences for those involved.

Cobra Kai's Cast Explains How They Shot the School Fight Scene

Season three kicks off showing those consequences for all. Miguel is in a coma. Samantha is shell-shocked with a form of PTSD. Robbie is on the run. Karate is seen as the villain as the public, in a typical manner, blames the activity instead of the kids.

There were parts of season three that I was not a huge fan of. I was not a fan of Miguel’s recovery with the help of Johnny. Johnny’s methods seemed so over-the-top to me that it felt to comedic. Even with the super healing power of Dee Snyder, Miguel seemed to recover from his surgery quickly.

Probably the biggest problem I had was the turn from Hawk at the fight at the LaRusso house. It felt as if it came out of nowhere. Sure there had been some close ups on Hawk during the year making you thing that he was having second thoughts on what was happening, but he had done so many horrible things and was such a horrid bully that I did not think he earned that “face turn” enough. It was too out of the blue and I still do not want to root for this guy. I know redemption is a theme of this series, but that just did not feel developed well enough.

I loved the trip to Japan by Daniel and the reunion with the characters of Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita) and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto), both the original actors from Karate Kid 2, was excellently done. The whole Okinawa material of the season worked really well.

Cobra Kai Season 3: New Characters Kumiko & Chozen Explained

Watching Robbie’s fall from grace was tough this year too, but it gives you the understanding on why he does what he does at the end of the season, sticking with Kreese over his father and Daniel. From his perspective, Daniel betrayed him to the police and Johnny was always choosing Miguel over him. You could see the conflict through the whole season with Robbie and you can see how that conflict was all-but-gone in the finale.

One has to wonder why the police are never involved in this series. It is one of those speedbumps that you have to accept and ignore to make everything work. I did like how the LaRussos tried to go to the police at one point this season only to find it a flop. It is not a major scene, but it helps address that potential plot hole.

I especially loved Amanda LaRusso this year. There were so many times when the trope of the genre would insist that she would be jealous or do something to cause more drama, but she does not. When Daniel is with Ali, his old girlfriend, there is not one moment of jealousy. Instead, she bonds immediately with Ali and starts to exchange stories. She is no nonsense and straight speaking and her undying support of Daniel and her family comes through in a level-headed manner.

Speaking of Ali, one of the best moments of the series was the arrival of Elizabeth Shue as Ali Mills. This is handled perfectly. She is not brought in to be the third side of the love triangle or to cause more problems. In fact, she is just the opposite. She is there to bring an end to the rivalry between Johnny and Daniel and that is a perfect choice since she was the reason the rivalry started in the first place. I appreciated the way the writers allowed Ali to give her side to the Daniel-Ali break-up that we only heard about during Karate Kid 2. The way Ali says it played out definitely sounds like how Daniel may have reacted. Elizabeth Shue brought a level of credibility to the scene and she was excellent in them.

Elisabeth Shue In 'Cobra Kai' Season 3 as Ali, Explained

We also got some flashbacks into the history of John Kreese. Every flashback to Kreese’s past were expertly handled and were some of the best scenes of the season. It was able to show us his back story without removing his teeth. You can see where his anger and his mindset is built from, especially in the scenes in Vietnam, and it only helps to build him as an excellent villain. Kreese took a step up this year into the spotlight as the key antagonist of the series.

I loved the early season Johnny and Daniel “buddy cop” vibe that was happening as they searched for the missing Robbie. There was great humor and remarkable chemistry between the pair of Ralph Macchio and William Zabka. It furthered the story while continuing to highlight the tensions between the two main characters of the adult story.

Cobra Kai Season 3 Trailer Arrives, Is Still Badass

The finale with the war between Johnny, Kreese and Daniel was epic and helped bring everything back around. It perfectly sets up the next season of the show and gave us the truce between the warring factions of Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang (what a name!). I am excited to see where season 4 goes.

Shadow in the Cloud

We are kicking off 2021 virtually and not in the theater. With any luck, the theater experience will feel less dangerous as the year progresses. Until then, as long as we continue to get the home releases on streaming, I’ll be happy.

That first release of 2021 is going to be Shadow in the Clouds, starring Chloë Grace Moretz as a WWII pilot Maude who has joined the plane crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress with a mysterious package and an unrevealed mission. As the plane is heading to its destination, there are some major conflicts that come into play endangering everyone on board.

First of all, this film has about three genres that totally crash together into the oddest amalgam of a film that I have seen in a long time. Originally, Shadow in the Cloud felt as if it were taking us in one direction, only to ram us into a different one. When the film took a turn toward Fast-and-Furious-type physics, I have to admit that I had no idea what I was watching.

It’s not really a spoiler since it was in the trailer, but I will label it so in case anyone has not seen the trailer. SPOILER. The movie suddenly goes from a crew questioning the reasons and motivations for Maude to be on the flight in the first place to an appearance of an actual gremlin on the wing of the plane causing malfunctions to the engines. It was a bizarre tone shift from what we had seen up until that moment and it did feel jarring. END of SPOILER.

Chloë Grace Moretz turned into a gigantic action star too, executing a couple of maneuvers that Dominic Toretto would have said were implausible. You absolutely have to suspend a whole bunch of disbelief to accept some of the physical stunts going on here. Still, it was a lot of fun in a shake-your-head kind of way.

The reveal of what was in the package was a huge unexpected reveal as well. That was not what I was expecting and the fact that the film was not afraid to do it speaks well of it. Honestly, it felt like the film drew a whole bunch of random plot points out of a hat from multiple genres and had to put them all together in the movie. Strangely enough, it worked.

The third act confrontation in the river was oddly satisfying and really kind of funny.

This was a mishmash of all kinds of types of movies and it was surprisingly entertaining. Moretz is great in the role, no matter what character type she was playing. Truthfully, she was like four different characters all rolled into one. The action was well done, if not completely insane and you certainly never see things coming.

Not a bad start to 2021.

3.4 stars

Anticipated in 2021

It is time now to look forward into the next year with the promise of a new beginning. No matter how much of a dumpster fire 2020 was, everything has the possibility to be fresh and new.

And with all of the content that had been pushed into 2021, this year, in Geek culture, has the chance to be greatest year to date.

So 2021….

Marvel Studios

With nothing new coming out in 2020, and not since July 2019 (Spider-Man: Far From Home). Marvel Studios is primed for the biggest year of its history.

On Disney +

I am so excited for WandaVision. It is most likely my number one most anticipated. I don’t know if that is because it is just a few weeks away or if it is because it looks to be a crazy ride. Maybe both. I love the Tom King Vision series which this looks to be based upon somewhat.

Falcon & the Winter Soldier. It is advertised as a 6-hour Marvel movie and that sounds excellent. There are some hints about the story possibly including some deep Marvel cuts including Isaiah Bradley (Google him if you do not know).

The trailer for Loki shown at the Disney Investor call was so epic that it really made me more intrigued by the Trickster God. I have always loved Tom Hiddleston and he looks amazing here. Is he really D.B. Cooper? Mind blown.

Another trailer that looked unbelievable was What If? with Geoffrey Rush voicing The Watcher. I was a fan of the What If? comic back when I was younger and, with the use of the MCU voice cast, this looks to be tremendous. The animation looks beautiful.

Ms. Marvel may be scheduled for 2021 release as well. Toss in the Hawkeye series with Jeremy Renner and Hailee Stanfield. That is an amazing slate for this year, and that is only on Disney +.

Big Screen.

Black Widow is finally going to be out in May. Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is one that I have been really excited about since I heard it announced. Eternals is also coming out this year. There is the third movie in the MCU Spider-Man Home trilogy.

But there is more than just the MCU to look forward to in 2021.

The Snyder cut is coming out on HBO Max. Snyder’s Justice League is rumored to be 4-hours long, depending on how it is going to be released. DC should also be offering The Suicide Squad with James Gunn. Rumors include that Black Adam is in that list as well. The gigantic fight between two titans are finally going to be here in Godzilla vs. Kong. I know some are not fans of the idea, but I am looking forward to Ghostbusters: Afterlife with Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard. Neo is back in The Matrix 4. Dune is looking to have won in its struggle for theatrical release instead of just on HBO Max. Robert Downey Jr. is back as Sherlock Holmes in the third film of that trilogy. There is the return to season 3 of the Mandalorian and the first season of The Book of Boba Fett, both in December. James Bond returns finally for the final appearance of Daniel Craig’s Bond in No Time to Die.

EYG Top 30 Best Movies of 2020

Here it is. Here is the list of the Top 30 Movies of 2020. The whole Year in Review has been building to this list.

Some reminders. This is my list. It may or may not, most likely not, match your own list. And that is fine. I expect that. I celebrate that. Feel free to make your own lists and put whatever movie you want at number one. This is my list so please respect that.

Secondly, as I stated in the Worst Movies list, the star ratings I give when I first review the movie are used only to narrow this list down. If one movie had a lower star score than another movie, it does not mean that it will be lower on the list. There is a perfect example at #7 on this list.

Moving along to the top of the list, this year’s number one film was really difficult to determine. There were literally three films that I considered for the number one spot and was not sure which way they would go. Heck, I’ll be curious to see if they remain that way by the time I get to typing them into the post. I have usually had number one determined for awhile. Not this year.

So here we go….

#30. Black is King. Great music movie from Disney + and Beyoncé. It is like a long music video with amazing visuals and costumes.

#29. Sound of Metal. Riz Ahmed brings a amazing performance as a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing. The scenes with the other deaf people were some of the best of the film.

#28. Hunter Hunter. A solid thriller/horror film with a disturbing and remarkably satisfying end scene. Vengeance at its goriest.

Movie Review: Predators and prey switch roles in “Hunter Hunter” | Movie  Nation

#27. Mank. The black and white filmed story of the creation of Citizen Kane through the POV of Herman J. Mankiewicz. David Fincher does a fantastic job with the Netflix film.

#26. News of the World. Tom Hanks in the Old West reading news from newspapers to the people. Then, everything changes when he finds young girl Helena Zengel abandoned and in trouble.

#25. The Old Guard. Based on the comic of the same name, this Netflix film brings these immortal mercenaries to life, led by Charlize Theron.

#24. Spontaneous. High school kids begin spontaneously combusting. Isn’t high school hard enough? Charlie Plummer and Katherine Langford star.

Movie Review: 'Spontaneous' (2020) Is A Coming-Of-Age Story Unlike Any  Other - PopHorror

#23. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. The Borat sequel caused plenty of controversy for plenty of Republicans over the last year. We see you Rudy! By the way, the movie is really funny.

#22 Greenland. Never thought this would be good, but I had such a good time with it. The disaster movie starring Gerard Butler that was more of a character piece than CGI-fest. What? Surprisingly great.

#21. Enola Holmes. A Netflix movie with Millie Bobby Brown as the sister of Sherlock Holmes. It is a lot of fun and Brown is exceptionally charming and charismatic as the lead.

#20. Promising Young Woman. Star making performance from Carey Mulligan. Mulligan’s character is severely damaged from her past and looking to make things better by any means necessary.

#19. Run. A great film on Hulu. Sarah Paulson continues to show how wide her range is and Kiera Allen steps up to the challenging role.

Sarah Paulson Lionsgate Movie 'Run' Flees The Big Screen For Hulu – Deadline

#18. Blow the Man Down. From Amazon Prime, there is a fantastic cast of characters highlighting the dark corners of a little town. Margo Martindale is the standout performance.

#17. The Vast of Night. Another surprise from Amazon Prime. The Vast of Night is an old fashioned sci-fi movie about aliens and the conspiracies surrounding them. The mood is especially tight.

#16. His House. A Netflix horror movie dealing with a man and his wife who have escaped from South Sudan to London, and the spirit that may have followed them.

#15. Extraction. Another Netflix film that features Chris Hemsworth as a bad ass hero who takes on a mission that sounds pretty harrowing. This is the best Non-Thor performance for Hemsworth.

Extraction movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger Ebert

#14. Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Margot Robbie shows that she is still a great choice to play Harley Quinn. This film was a lot of fun and filled with some fantastic DC female anti-heroes.

#13. Onward. Pixar’s first of two great movies this year. This focuses on Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as brothers trying to use a special magical stick to bring back their deceased father for one day. It is Pixar’s typical heart-warming film.

#12. Palm Springs. The Hulu movie that takes the Groundhog Day trope and twisted it around. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti have great chemistry in this Rom Com/Sci fi film.

#11. Host. It is just over 60 minutes, but this film on Shudder is one of the best horror films of the year. Dealing with a zoom meeting gone wrong, Host is as anxiety-ridden as any film this year.

Host Review | Movie - Empire

#10. Love and Monsters. Dylan O’Brien is in a dystopian future where he is trying to get back to the woman of his dreams. Along the way, he has to fight monsters. This is a ton of fun.

#9. Pooka Lives! This Hulu film was one of the biggest surprises of the year. The horror film of these little pooka creatures being unleashed on the public.

Into the Dark: Pooka Lives! movie review (2020) | Roger Ebert

#8. Soul. The second Pixar movie is one of transcendent thought and amazing music. Joe and 22 have a great relationship and create that wonderful feeling and emotion Pixar is so great at.

#7. The Invisible Man. Here is the film that had a lower star score than many of the films on this list, but has found itself higher on the list. It is a tremendous remake of a classic Universal monster.

#6. Black Box. This Amazon Prime film was so great. It was frightening, tense and surprising. It had great performances and some excellent twists.

#5. Wolfwalkers. The top animated movie of the year, it is beautifully created and the story is one of a folklore from Ireland. It is fantasy at its best.

#4. Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage play was recorded live and put together as a musical movie and Disney gained the rights. Then this past July, instead of holding off until 2021 as they initially had planned, Disney released this on Disney + and revealed the brilliant musical to a wider audience than ever before.

Here's how you can get Hamilton tickets in the UK

#3. Da 5 Bloods. Spike Lee’s new film, from Netflix, tells the story of a group of Vietnam vets heading back to the country to find a treasure they had hidden. Brilliant performances from Delroy Lindo, Chadwick Boseman and others. Da 5 Bloods was shown in flashbacks, but the current day actors still played them. It was a great chocie.

#2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The final, utterly brilliant, performance from Chadwick Boseman is not the only reason to watch Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It is just the top reason. Viola Davis was also unbeleivable as Ma Rainey herself. This is like a stage paly on film and it has some of the best dialogue in any movies this year. Powerful.

#1. The Trial of the Chicago 7. This was a tough choice as either Da 5 Bloods or Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom could have been number one. However, I wound up with Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix film, which had one of the greatest ensemble casts you will ever find. Amazing dialogue. Suspenseful tone. Brilliant performances. Based on the true story, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a masterful film.

The Trial of the Chicago 7': The Sixties Told in Sorkinese - Rolling Stone

The Amazing Spider-Man #55

“Last Remains Part Six”

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Patrick Gleason

Cover Art: Patrick Gleason

I have been enjoying the current arc of Amazing Spider-Man, that started in earnest with the return of the Sin Eater (though seeds have been planted for the character of Kindred for some time before that). Today, the Last Remains arc came to a close with an uncomfortable and unnerving issue, Amazing Spider-Man #55.

No spoilers here, but there appeared to be something tragic happen at the end of the story that I really hope is just smoke and mirrors.

The cover of the issue, drawn by Patrick Gleason, is a beautiful piece of art. It is perhaps my favorite cover of the year. It is a black profile of Spidey with his head outline with what looked like white webs. The design is gorgeous and the execution is even better. It is truly a striking cover and it is apparently causing the online price to skyrocket.

The conflict between Peter and harry continued to play out as all of the other Spider-people are in their place. There was a major hint dropped about what Spidey era of comics this story dates back to which, again, I will not spoil, but it feels as if this is just the beginning to the build to something even bigger. The LGY for the issue is #856, could they be build toward something massive for Spider-Man #900?

The issue is completely tense and nerve-wracking. It leaves off on a terrible cliffhanger too so I am anxious to see the next issue soon.