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The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

The Matrix Resurrections' is brilliant, but not for everyone | Engadget

DIRECTOR: Lana Wachowski

CAST: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett-Smith

REVIEW:

More than a few franchises have overstayed their welcome—Alien, Predator, Terminator—and The Matrix arguably never needed sequels to begin with. The 1999 original movie, while a bit style over substance (though it wasn’t devoid of the latter) and not having aged well in a couple aspects (its overinflated sense of its own leather jacket-clad, sunglasses-wearing coolness included), was a kinetic and hyper-stylized blast. Alas, its lackluster sequels, 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, fell victim to Pirates of the Caribbean Sequel Syndrome, following up a comparatively simple and straightforward original with overly padded sequels getting bogged down in labored convoluted “epic” mythology and taking themselves way too seriously. And now, almost twenty years later, Lana Wachowski (no longer co-directing with her sibling Lily) has brought us The Matrix Resurrections, a movie way past its sell-by date. An uninspired, messy, and often incoherent hodgepodge, undeservedly self-satisfied with its own copious and heavy-handed meta self-referencing, Resurrections is a turgid slog, a movie that’s not only hard to follow, but doesn’t make us care enough to bother. If this was the best the still-involved Wachowski sibling could come up with after almost two decades of developing a continuing story, The Matrix should have stayed dead.

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Jungle Cruise (2021)

The Rock rejected: See Dwayne Johnson's failed move on Emily Blunt in  exclusive 'Jungle Cruise' deleted scene

DIRECTOR: Jaume Collet-Serra

CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Edgar Ramirez, Paul Giamatti

REVIEW:

Jungle Cruise follows the massively lucrative Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and The Haunted Mansion in Disney’s raiding of its properties to stretch a movie out of a theme park ride. To that end, Jungle Cruise is about what you’d expect, a moderately enjoyable campy adventure romp whose modest charms aren’t quite enough to make up for an overlong runtime and derivative plot that leaves no cliche (or movie it can “borrow” from) unearthed. Mostly ignoring the source material apart from a jumping-off point and marketing hook, it borrows pages liberally from The African Queen, The Mummy (the one starring Brendan Fraser, not Tom Cruise), Romancing the Stone, Indiana Jones, and the aforementioned Pirates of the Caribbean, but most of these aren’t flattering comparisons for Jungle Cruise to invite upon itself.

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Eternals (2021)

Eternals Currently The Lowest Rated Marvel Movie on Rotten Tomatoes -  Disneyland News Today

DIRECTOR: Chloe Zhao

CAST: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Barry Keoghan, Brian Tyree Henry, Lia McHugh, Lauren Ridloff, Don Lee, Kit Harrington, Harish Patel

REVIEW:

In its ongoing quest to further expand its cinematic universe and prove there’s still fresh places to go and life left in the franchise post-Infinity War/Endgame, Eternals represents another risky departure by Marvel Studios, but while this worked for, say, Guardians of the Galaxy, this might represent a rare significant misstep by the studio which has seemed a virtual box office King Midas for the last decade plus. While not a complete failure—in fact, it has admirable qualities, though it ends up feeling somewhat less than the sum of its parts—Eternals is plagued with issues, some of which come from trying to fit it, like a square peg in a round hole, into the greater MCU, while others are its own self-contained pacing and narrative problems.

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Dune (2021)

Dune 2021 film review: The spice must flow, but it stops abruptly | Ars  Technica

DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve

CAST: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling, Stellan Skarsgard, David Dastmalchian, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster

REVIEW:

Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune, a futuristic geopolitical allegory that is unabashedly pro eco-radicalism, anti-corporate, and Islamophilic, is such a notoriously dense work that some believed it was unfilmable, even though it had an influence on various more commercialized sci-fi works that came after it, including George Lucas’ Star Wars (Dune takes place on a desert planet, features a scheming emperor, and involves a mystical power called “The Voice”….sound vaguely familiar?). Attempts were made, most prominently David Lynch’s borderline incoherent—and loosely adapted—1984 film, but its garbled narrative and the deviations it took from the source material rankled Dune fans. Later, a 2000 television miniseries adapted the plot more faithfully, but its low budget TV movie quality kept fans waiting for a definitive adaptation and did not fully allay concerns that perhaps Dune just didn’t work as a movie. Denis Villeneuve has tackled the ambitious task of bringing Dune to the screen in big-budget fashion, and while not a completely unqualified success, his version is successful and engaging enough that the biggest thing wrong with it is its subtitle “Part One”. The approximate first half of Herbert’s original novel has been brought to the screen, but with funding for the rest not yet secure, it remains to be seen if Villeneuve will be allowed to finish his work or whether this Dune will remain a half-told story.

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

First reactions to Marvel Movie 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings':  Is it

DIRECTOR: Destin Daniel Cretton

CAST: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Ben Kingsley, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN “SPOILERS”

With the Infinity War phase ended, the Marvel Cinematic Universe must now turn its focus toward the next era of its superheroes, including replacing some of its long-running mainstays who’ve left us (Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow) with the next generation. To that end, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an engaging origin story that manages touches of an epic feel and does things different from what we expect from the Marvel formula and whose first half feels like an old-school martial arts action flick and whose second half feels like a mythological fantasy epic with shades of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Mulan.

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The Suicide Squad (2021)

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DIRECTOR: James Gunn

CAST: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, Sylvester Stallone (voice)

REVIEW:

With The Suicide Squad (with a “The” tacked on to differentiate it from David Ayer’s sporadically entertaining but scattershot 2016 hot mess), James Gunn has become the second high-profile Marvel director to moonlight in the DCEU, and fortunately his DC detour is more successful than Joss Whedon’s misbegotten Justice League. In fact, while not entirely escaping some of the flaws of its predecessor, Gunn’s rendition of the titular squad of supervillains is enough of an improvement over Ayer’s that it’s possible to disregard the previous film’s existence (this one exists in a vague unspecified territory between a loose sequel and a quasi-reboot, and features a few returning characters and actors, but no previous events are directly referenced, so familiarity with the “first” movie isn’t necessary to enjoying this one). Gunn delivers the same quirky, breezy tone that helped make his Guardians of the Galaxy so popular, but combined with his warped, blackly comical, and often gory tendencies now being given free rein by an R rating that Disney/Marvel would never have allowed. This isn’t a movie for the kids, but for adults who aren’t squeamish, it’s flawed but a blast of wild irreverent fun.

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Black Widow (2021)

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DIRECTOR: Cate Shortland

CAST: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, O-T Fagbenle, Ray Winstone, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt

REVIEW:

Black Widow, the movie to finally give the long-running MCU character her own posthumous solo movie, arrives at an awkward time, skipping back to sandwich itself into the time period between Captain America: Civil War and The Avengers: Infinity War and attempt to give more depth and backstory to a character who’s already dead. If timing is everything, Black Widow has missed the boat and feels like it should have come out several years ago, but setting the awkwardness of its release date aside, it’s an enjoyable enough stand-alone adventure, although it’s more successful in giving an often underdeveloped supporting Avenger a deeper backstory than it is in its generic narrative that feels like it borrows a page—or several pages—from other movies in the spy thriller genre.

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In the Heights (2021)

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DIRECTOR: Jon M. Chu

CAST: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV, Lin-Manuel Miranda

REVIEW:

Prolific and multi-talented Broadway star and singer-songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda first developed In the Heights long before 2015’s phenomenon Hamilton made him a more recognizable name, and bringing it first to the stage and then eventually to the screen has been a longtime labor of love. In fact, Miranda first wrote what would become In the Heights in college, then fine-tuned it in 2002 with the intention of producing it as a Broadway show. The version that eventually debuted on the Broadway stage was co-written by Miranda and playwright Quiara Alegria Hudges. In 2008 the original Broadway run of In the Heights (also starring Miranda himself) was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won 4, including Best Musical. The film rights were bought the same year, but it has taken thirteen years for a film adaptation of In the Heights to reach the screen. The result, while overlong and not among the top tier of film musicals (or Miranda’s own output), and likely a little less relatable to viewers not personally connected to the Hispanic-American immigrant experience, is still a lively and enjoyable “feel good” experience.

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Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Godzilla Vs. Kong': first trailer sees cinematic titans square off in epic  battle

DIRECTOR: Adam Wingard

CAST: Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Julian Dennison, Eiza Gonzalez, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Kaylee Hottle, Shun Oguri

REVIEW:

Godzilla vs. Kong, the fourth installment in Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse (and bearing little plot resemblance to 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla), is an example of how a two-minute trailer highlight reel shows its inherent shallowness when stretched out over two hours. Sporadic monster slugfests are not enough to sustain a Saturday morning cartoon plot with inane human characters scurrying around. Fans of the “classic” Godzilla series—which regularly featured plots every bit as silly as this one—might be entertained, but for casual fans, this series demonstrates diminishing returns.

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Cherry (2021)

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DIRECTOR: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

CAST: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo

REVIEW:

After becoming two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s primary recurring directors, helming Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, The Avengers: Infinity War, and The Avengers: Endgame, the sibling directing duo of Anthony and Joe Russo have switched gears to something completely different, taking a lower-profile more indie movie detour from CGI-heavy star-studded special effects and action extravaganzas. To this end, they’ve brought along their sister Angela Russo, who gets a screenwriting credit, and reunited with Marvel star Tom Holland, going far away from Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Nico Walker, Cherry is a bit of a mess whose social commentary tries to tackle too many societal ills and is sometimes lost amid the Russos’ excessive directorial flourishes, but it’s still an engaging and compelling docudrama that has something to say.

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