Violation (2021) Written & Directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli
I have not seen A Promising Young Woman, but I think this film covers the same ground and goes a lot more extreme than what I know of that picture. It isn’t a success, though, and ultimately I felt very cold and unmoved, which was not what I expected going into the film. Violation is undoubtedly stylish in its structure and visual choices, and I think they distracted from the humanity of the characters for me. I’m never one to shy away from a brutal and incendiary film because, at the end of the day, it will evoke some emotion. Sadly, what I felt most after this picture was boredom and a distance from the characters. There are some fabulously well-acted moments, but overall, the movie falls apart.
The Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 5 (2021) Written by Dalan Musson Directed by Kari Skogland
This episode was a bit of an improvement from the last couple, but the show is still far from being as good as it could be. One of the most glaring problems with the mini-series is how bloated the narrative has become with characters. In this one episode, we have scenes with Sam, Bucky, Isaiah Bradley, his grandson Elijah, John Walker, John Walker’s wife, Lamar’s family, Sam’s sister, and his nephews, Zemo, the Dora Milaje, Joaquin Torres, Batroc, Sharon Carter, Karli Morgenthau & the Flag Smashers. Plus, they introduce a new character, the Contessa de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). The Zemo narrative appears to be over as he’s taken into Wakandan custody, but I just don’t see a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to all these arcs next episode.
The second episode of the PopCult Podcast went up yesterday. I’m enjoying making these and already planning on tweaking the format a little on the next one. I think I’ll be cutting most of me talking solo and keep it more to a conversation with Ariana. I know I always enjoy podcasts more that are a back and forth. I was happy to see the first episode got 10 listeners, which is 10 more than I expected. Ariana picked the Top 5 list for the third episode, and we’ll be having a conversation about Them on Amazon Prime. Oh boy, that show is something. It should be an interesting talk.
Shiva Baby (2021) Written & Directed by Emma Seligman
As I get older, my personal definition of what makes a horror film both expands and retracts. The funhouse jumpscare-a-thons that have been accepted as what horror is in major theatrical releases misses the whole point of the genre for me. I think Ari Aster’s pictures are as close to popular horror that I enjoy. I think what’s missing from most of these movies is the building of atmosphere. There are tense strings on the soundtrack, and then a loud burst with something that might be related to the horror or not popping onto the screen. Shiva Baby feels like a personal horror movie to me, the story of a person whose decisions in life have caught up to her and play out almost in real-time. It has those same strings playing on the soundtrack, but they rarely give us the climax we’re expecting and just keep needling at the sanity of our protagonist. It’s one of the tensest movie-watching experiences I’ve had in 2021 so far.
The Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 4 (Disney+) Written by Derek Kolstad Directed by Kari Skogland
With only two episodes left in this mini-series, it has gotten to the point where the story feels utterly bloated with characters and subplots that can’t possibly be resolved by the end. WandaVision had a tight focus on a single storyline; here, we have too many characters with a too complicated web of relationships. If this was a whole television season and characters were given spotlights, it could work. However, we’re getting established characters written to fit the plot (Sam Wilson), other characters having their arcs rushed (Zemo), and a bunch of other people not given room to breathe and showcase who they are in this narrative.
It’s hard to believe the first quarter of 2021 is already over. It felt like those three months zoomed right by us. Tomorrow, my wife and I will be getting our second COVID vaccine shot. We’re both ready to brace for what might be a rough ride for the following couple of days. But that’s fine if it means our chances of having severe symptoms are significantly reduced. From what my research on the vaccine has been, it’s not that it keeps you from contracting or even spreading COVID (though newer research is showing that may be happening), but it will make the symptoms markedly less severe if you do acquire it. Since the pandemic started, I’ve never been someone who balked at wearing masks. I plan on continuing to wear them even after they tell us the pandemic has passed. I didn’t get sick once this last winter, and neither did my wife. We attribute this to both continuing to shelter in place 90% of the time and wearing masks when we went out. Honestly, I get sort of annoyed with people who go on and on about not getting to see strangers’ smiles. No stranger owes you a smile, weirdo.
The Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 3 (Disney+) Written by Derek Kolstad Directed by Kari Skogland
I overwhelmingly disliked this third entry of the series for a multitude of reasons and I’ve been reflecting on some of the race issues brought up by the first two episodes. We’ve reached the halfway point in The Falcon and Winter Soldier, so now we have an idea of what this is shaping into and I have to say it is not looking great. This episode especially felt like a mess in every possible aspect from dialogue to characterization to the plot.
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) Written by Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, and Zach Shields Directed by Adam Wingard
No one ever thought the Godzilla films had great human stories, even going back to the original Toho productions. I’m not kidding myself that we ever had some person on the ground that delivered a compelling character arc. However, I feel like we are at a point where you could do that? But this movie certainly doesn’t achieve that, and I would be hard-pressed to recall a single name of any human character in this movie. Below I will include them when I summarize the plot, but that will only be after googling the cast list because they leave no impression whatsoever and probably should have just been deleted from the final cut.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) Written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers Directed by Jon Watts
For a little while there, it looked like this movie might be made by Sony and take place outside of the MCU. Thankfully Marvel and Sony talked, and so we get this Spider-Man and one more appearance in another property before they go back to the negotiating table again. Marvel cleverly weaves Spider-Man even deeper into the MCU lore with this picture almost as a failsafe to keep the IP integrated. I think you’ll agree there has never been such a cameo-heavy MCU film to date, and it’s almost to the point of frustration. So many characters show up for a scene but then don’t feel integrated into the overall story.