A campy, Sam Raimified entry into the MCU and a few of its multiverses, with groovy Evil Dead energy, Dutch angles, and POV shots to spare. The more horror in the MCU the better, and Dr. Strange MoM completes a critical arc with a darker, sometimes surprising turn into the genre.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Bruce Campbell and Benedict Cumberbatch have the same initials, so I naturally assumed Campbell would be playing another version of Strange.”
There’s a bit of welcome schlocky Hammer Horror in this new entry into the Spider-Man adjacent genetic anti-hero Sony Playstation Universe (SAGASPU), but not nearly enough. It’s all so suitably hammy and self-serious, but more blood, more horror, and choosing Buffy the Vampire Slayer style prosthetics over CGI would have really sold it. Still, if you dig the weird, messy vibes of Venom and like Matt Smith stealing the spotlight from people, you will find something to enjoy.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “I still stand by my Venom 2 review where I said there is plenty of room for these janky 90s/early 00s style comic book movies amidst the cinematic universes, destined to be played on FX until the end of time. For the bored children. For the drunk bar patrons. For the tired vacationers. For the people, damn it.”
A wet, stylish film noir that gives the Batman character a long overdue big screen, slow burn detective story. Flashlights are held. Mood is thick. It begins on Halloween, it never stops raining and, yes, they slapped some voiceovers on the thing.
I wouldn’t call it any darker or grittier than Nolan or Snyder’s takes, just more… Chinatown. If anything, that gives it a quirkier tone than our previous modern takes because it’s really hamming it up with the genre at points. It’s also concerned with the sheer privilege of Batman and Bruce Wayne in a refreshing way, juxtaposing him against those who didn’t have the luxuries of money (even being Batman is a luxury) in the aftermath of loss.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Not to make anyone jealous, but I have more followers on Twitter than The Paul Dano Riddler.”
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy successfully brought comic book pages, in all their glorious tone, goofy dialogue, and mustache twirling villains, to the screen. From beginning to end, none of these movies feel like they’re in service to anything other than telling an entertaining, comic book spider-story. Not a wider universe, not box office receipts, and not a need to retain rights or something. These are the clearest, untarnished, wide-eyed Spider-Man movies that I think we’re ever going to see.
Even Spider-Man 3, which I saw in 2007, in a sketchy boardwalk movie theater in Wildwood, New Jersey during a senior year band trip in high school, accurately captures the ways in which comics can falter when they become bloated. Still, a strong humanity shines through these movies even in their corniest and worst moments (I will defend emo Peter on my death bed). Raimi, Maguire, Dunst, Franco (yikes), and the top tier talent jumping in as villains, never let that humanity collapse under the weight of the effects and superheroics. Obviously the prime example of this is Spider-Man 2 and its handling of Dr. Octopus, but at every level of these movies the intention seems to be story and humanity. Some of the effects, dialogue, and MJ’s chronic status as the captured damsel haven’t aged well, but for early 2000s movies I think they acquit themselves pretty nicely.
Also, the subjectivity and insurmountable power of nostalgia is always at play when talking about these flicks. So, they’re just so dang wistful for that reason.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “I am jealous of future college students majoring in Classic Meme Studies because they will be assigned to watch this trilogy for homework, parse out the memes, and listen to Nickelback’s “Hero” for 30% of their grade.”
A dense, beautiful film that feels like a new beginning for the MCU more so than any other entry after, well, Iron Man. It doesn’t break the MCU mold so much as it reshapes what a movie in this series can look like by pressing against the sides. What Black Panther and Shang Chi did for the modern superhero character, Eternals does for the allowed style and substance of these movies. There is absolutely room in these things for Zhao’s practical filmmaking, weighty conversations about immortality, Bollywood numbers, and slight Watchmen-adjacent interrogations of the superhero genre and the pedestals on which we place these characters.
It seems like the movie is divisive because it’s either too much of a Chloe Zhao movie and not enough of an MCU one or vice versa. For me, it’s kind of a perfect mix that takes some critical steps forward in it’s representation of humanity. Either way, change is good. Change is necessary.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “The Eternals are kind of the immortal, dysfunctional Power Rangers and I’m into it.”
A romantic dramedy in the guise of a modern dark antihero/superhero movie. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is what it is, and that’s okay. That’s beautiful, even. They took what worked about the first, namely two Tom Hardy boyz interacting with each other and figuring out their relationship, and just built the entire movie around it. Then they gave Woody Harrelson a silly red wig and slapped some CGI on him to transform him into 90s icon Carnage, and it all just kind of works in a fun, B-movie kind of way.
My mildly spoilery VHS cover pull-quote: “Exciting things are no doubt in store for the Venom character beyond the Sony Spideyverse, but I appreciate this little weird 90-minute corner of the superhero genre and hope it continues to do its own thing. Like Morbius? That’s going to be wild. He’s a living vampire and some filmgoers are going to confuse him with Owen Wilson’s character Mobius from Loki. What an odd treat that will be!”
Fathers. Sons. Dragons and Awkwafina, together again. This movie has it all, including some of the most kinetic and gorgeous hand to hand combat scenes that blow even The Winter Soldier out of the floating, mystic water. It feels like a thoughtful, bona fide martial arts film that just happens to be in the MCU. I was only left wanting more of the coordinated physicality and more of the characters.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Cool, quick knife flips while in the middle of a fight are how you can tell if it’s a good MCU movie. So, my official MCU movie rankings are Everything Else, Shang Chi, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I don’t make the rules.”
A bloody, messy blast of a comic book movie that peppers in substantial emotional beats for these cannon fodder oddballs amidst all the carnage, chaos and wit. It feels like it’s pure James Gunn in a way that Guardians of the Galaxy can’t really approach. Both, however, share a common, simple thesis statement: the outcasts, the downtrodden, the misunderstood rats and the weasel things that have killed 27 children all have purpose and worth.
One thing I really appreciated, surprisingly, is the treatment of a character from the original Suicide Squad movie: Rick Flag, y’all!! Harley is always sort of core (and amazing) Harley from one movie to another, but Rick Flag gets to show an evolution of character from the 2016 film to this one. From wooden soldier to big damn hero who seems to have found a place among the outcasts he leads. While I went into the movie not caring about Flag living or dying, that changed substantially through the course of events. Beyond him, we are made to care about most of these these ‘losers’ that make it past the 20 minute mark, from Polka Dot Man to Ratcatcher 2, to even cosmic gumbo Starro the Conqueror.
My spoiler-filled VHS cover pull-quote:
“They killed my mate Captain Boomerang and, like a boomerang, I can only hope he comes back around somehow. I salute his noble severed arm, holding his boomerang high. All names are letters, dickhead!”