I very much enjoyed the first Doctor Strange film and thought his character has made a nice progression thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, WandaVision, and Spider-Man: No Way Home, I was slightly concerned about this film being able to stand on its own. Now here's the thing, it doesn't, but I still thought it was great. In fact, I think it's an even more entertaining film than the first Doctor Strange. I would even go as far as saying it would be in my conversation of the better Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Here's why, as long as you're caught up on the connected properties, this one is more than worth your time.
Picking up after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision, both of which laid the groundwork for how the multiverse is talked about in this film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness takes no time at all before it dives right into the action/madness. If for nothing else, I loved the pace. The film spends just enough time in the first few minutes to establish where relations are with other characters from the first Doctor Strange, but very quickly sets up how and why the multiverse is the mainline throughout the film. Without giving anything away, the reason the multiverse becomes the main plot is due to the character of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Her presence here was electric and I couldn't get enough of it, but I can't go into any details without ruining her story here.
With the introduction of a new character in America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) very early on in the film, it becomes clear that she will be a staple in future films for sure. I'm okay with that because her performance here, along with her arc throughout the film, was all engaging to me. Her abilities and how she has them needs to be explored a little further in the future, but she was a very interesting character. Her interactions with Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) throughout the film were great as well. They share some great chemistry together. With all of that said, let's dive into a couple of minor issues I think some fans may have.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding big cameos and appearances from familiar faces, and while there is definitely a small chunk of the film dedicated to just that, I can see why people are saying this film was overhyped. Personally, I didn't know too much going into it, so I was very surprised by a couple of appearances. Still, where I feel people will be disappointed is in the fact that the multiverse itself remains focused solely on Wanda and Strange throughout the entire film. A lot more could've been explored, but I found that holding back made for a better overall film. There are some fun cameos for sure, but I think they went as far as they needed to. This film benefitted from not being bogged down by needless multiverse stuff. Plus, I believe this is still just the beginning of what kind of wacky adventures are coming in the next few films.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness didn't blow my mind in ways I was thinking it would, but it was also much more of a focussed story and used the fun cameos for a purpose in a way I wasn't expecting either. This film was great in my opinion. Yes, you do need to see a few other Marvel Cinematic Universe entries to fully enjoy everything on display here, but it's worth it. I just had a blast with it from start to finish. Sam Raimi, who directed this film, has his vision on full display here and being a fan of his work for many years, that put a smile on my face. There are a few thrilling scenes that border on a bit of horror and that was also nice to see. Although other films/series have delved into the multiverse already, this film felt like a breath of fresh air for the franchise. It's not perfect and I have some nitpicks with certain things, but I loved watching it.
When it comes to films directed by Michael Bay, everyone should know what to expect at this point. You'll either get a subdued action film like 13 Hours or a bombastic extravaganza like Transformers. There's really no taming Bay when it comes to his filmmaking techniques. Ambulance is his latest thrill-ride of a movie and while I enjoyed this one more than most of his recent films, it's still too much commotion for one movie. Here's why I recommend Ambulance for action fans, but also why I place an asterisk on my recommendation.
Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal), a criminal whose brother, Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is in need of some money, decides to let him in on a bank job they're about to pull. Joining them and failing to accomplish the robbery, these two brothers steal an ambulance to flee from the police. This ambulance also happens to have a paramedic on board with a police officer who has been shot. This makes for an endless car chase from start to finish, which is what kept me engaged the entire time. This, however, was also a detriment to the movie.
The camerawork in this film almost felt like it was trying too hard to keep the audience engaged in this very simple premise. From many twisting drone shots around buildings and running cameras under cars, I can see that this film will visually make certain viewers nauseous. I admired Bay's attempt at making a very hyper-fast film, but it only worked for me about half of the time. Still, this is a film that has a surprisingly devoted cast.
Jake Gyllenhal always brings his A-Game and this film was no exception to that. I've also admired Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's recent work as well and this film only extended my liking for him even further. The biggest standout to me here though is Eiza González's portrayal of the paramedic, Cam Thompson. There have been many films, including ones I love like Baby Driver, where her performances were below average, to say the least. If you continue to pursue acting though, certain performers can improve, and I believe that's happening with her. I was genuinely surprised to see that she was delivering a solid performance. I look forward to seeing more from her now.
Overall, Ambulance isn't going to win anyone over if they're not a fan of Michael Bay's work, but it's definitely among his better films, especially in the last number of years. This entire film is impossible and would never happen in reality, specifically the things they're able to pull off in the ambulance as it's in motion. I rolled my eyes multiple times and cringed at a few lines of dialogue, but I also has a fun time with it, and that's really all I'm looking for in a movie like this. It's loud, the music overpowers certain scenes and the camerawork will deter some viewers for sure, but I recommend Ambulance otherwise.
Having enjoyed the Sonic the Hedgehog video games throughout the years and also having enjoyed the first film in 2020, I was curious where they would go with a sequel. Now playing in theatres, I would say that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is about just as enjoyable as its predecessor. Everything I liked about the first film is doubled up on here which was a nice treat, but new issues are also present. I don't go into films like this hoping for some masterful piece of filmmaking, but I do question when a creative decision just feels off. Here are my mostly positive thoughts on Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
After being banished to the Mushroom Planet, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) forms a new ally in Knuckles (Idris Elba). Returning to Earth with his new companion, he once again seeks out Sonic. The only addition however is that he wishes to find the chaos emerald, which holds "ultimate power." Sonic (Ben Schwartz) teams up with a new ally of his own in Tails (Colleen O'Shaughnessey) to search for it as well. This film becomes both a treasure hunt and villain showdown, which was fun to see. It doesn't get much simpler in terms of storytelling for a film such as this, but I thought it was well done.
On top of having fun with the story itself, I also found myself impressed with how witty the film was with its dialogue. I laughed at multiple puns and Jim Carrey's portrayal is once again great, if not even better. What did bog the film down though was a portion of the film that took place in Hawai'i. I understand continuing the parent storyline with both James Marsden and Tika Sumpter, but why they go to Hawai'i and why so much time is focused on secondary characters when it ultimately amounts to nothing to move the story forward was beyond me. Sure, these scenes had their moments and I didn't hate them, but they felt out of place for this film. Taking this out would leave no impact and make the film feel much better-paced.
Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 delivers on all of its promises. It's a film for both kids and adults that doesn't take itself overly seriously (only when it needs to), and is also just a pure blast of energy from start to finish. I never once found myself bored, other than that major story detour, and that's all I really wanted from this sequel. It's bright, vibrant, energetic, and delivers just the right amount of emotion without feeling overdone. The setup for a third film does excite me and I will gladly watch the next instalment. There's nothing all that special about these movies, but I have fun watching them. Especially if you enjoyed the first movie, I recommend checking this one out. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is now playing in theatres.
I have been a fan of Marvel films since I was a kid and I always try to look for the good in them first, simply because I don't enjoy disliking them. When a superhero story is told very well, they're some of my favourite stories out there. When Sony began to branch out their Spider-Man universe and make villain films, I was very worried. I had some fun with both Venom films, but neither were great by any means. Well, the latest Sony/Marvel villain film, Morbius, has just hit the big screen, and it's not good, which is saying a lot coming from me.
Trying to cure himself of a rare condition, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) discovers that there may be a cure hidden in the blood of bats. After injecting himself to find out, he morphs himself into some kind of vampire. From here, he begins to lose control, creating casualties along the way. His best friend Milo (Matt Smith) also has this condition, so I'm sure you can guess where the villain storyline comes into play here. So now that you have the just of the premise, let's dive in.
Firstly, I'm not going to ignore the elements that worked for me overall. I'll admit that this is the best I've seen from Jared Leto in a while and the chemistry he shared with Martine (Adria Arjona) was absolutely a highlight of the film. The tone suits what's going on and I enjoyed the look of it overall, but the tone and slow pacing eventually grind the film to a halt on a few occasions. I'm also all for a darker hero/anti-hero story in the Marvel universe because we haven't had much of that, but there just wasn't enough of a good story being told to back that up. There was an effort here, it just didn't work for me.
So, why didn't this film work? Well, I was instantly turned off by the first scene, as the discovery of the bats is literally the opening sequence. Just a couple of scenes later he's already injecting himself and the cure begins to work. It's almost like the first act of the film was condensed to five minutes. Moving along, there are many scenes of dialogue that drag on, while the important plot points seem to be brushed over as bullet points. Morbius is so focused on getting to the good stuff, but it's sacrificing its characters in the process. On top of not really caring about what was going on, the finale just felt like another CGI fight that lasts for about 20 minutes. Those sequences can be tolerable or even great if they're part of a good film, but I just found myself rolling my eyes this time.
In the end, Morbius is a film that takes place in the same world as Venom (maybe?) and Spider-Man (maybe?), but I was too confused with the conclusion of the film to really know where it takes place. I'd almost say it takes place in its own world. Morbius is a movie that clearly feels tampered with in post-production, and not in a good way. I do like Jared Leto as this character so I will gladly sit through a film that includes him, but I really don't care to see a series of films based solely on Morbius. Once the credits rolled I had no desire to recommend it to anyone and I can't see myself revisiting it, unless necessary. Morbius, even with low expectations on my part, sadly disappointed me.
Disney is simply the best out there in terms of animation, specifically Pixar films. Yes, many animated films have come out from other studios that deserve higher praise for sure, but the consistency of Disney/Pixar animation has always been unmatched. Turning Red is Pixar's latest release, once again going straight to Disney+ and it's once again another delightful film by the studio. I'll try to keep my bias of having lived in Toronto at one point and still living in the vicinity of it to the side, but seeing a major animation feature taking place there put a huge smile on my face. Here's why I believe Turning Red should not just be seen by its demographic but seen by all ages.
Following Mei Lee (Rosalie Chiang) a 13-year-old girl on the brink of puberty, Turning Red is really about the exploration of what happens to your body, but in a much lighter and fun way. After turning 13, she begins to sense her body changing. As soon as she feels any kind of excitement, her body transforms into a giant red panda. Mei's insanely overprotective mother wishes for her to keep this a secret, as it's a family issue that has been dealt with before. This eventually leads to an emotional climax, but at its core, this is a film about Mei and her friends, just trying to live their lives.
Where this film really sold me was the friendship between the four main young girls. It felt very authentic to how kids act and talk today. On top of that, making them the outsiders so that the entire school can think Mei is incredible when they finally see the Panda was a great touch. This type of story has been told before, but it's always refreshing to see it done well. This is also one of the more mature subjects that Pixar has tackled in a while, which was very nice to see.
Overall, where the film leads is pretty much exactly what I expected and there weren't a tonne of surprises, but the main twist did get me. I also am a huge advocate for a major studio believing that one of their employees deserves a bigger shot. Domee Shi (who also co-wrote the screenplay) directed the short film Bao for Disney a few years ago and it was one of the better ones in years. On top of that, she has been around in and around the studio for many years, working as a storyboard artist on films like Inside Out and Toy Story 4. She has now made one of Pixar's catalogue films and I believe it more than deserves a spot on the list. Turning Red is very straightforward in terms of how everything plays out, but it's still great. It's now streaming on Disney+ and I recommend it.