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The past couple of months have seen a slow and uneven return to movie theaters. Films that were delayed or otherwise impacted by the pandemic are gradually returning, filling the country’s big screens with the outsized sequels and franchise fare that many have spent the past year-plus anticipating.

We watched a battle of the monsters when King Kong fought Godzilla. We held our breaths as Emily Blunt took on alien invaders in near-silence. Chris Rock was in a “Saw” movie and Emma Stone gave us a Cruella de Vil origin story. We even got to see Vin Diesel get faster and furiouser than ever alongside his franchise family and a smattering of movie stars. But even with all that, it was hard to say that the moviegoing experience was truly, fully back … until now.

That’s right - the MCU is on the big screen, baby!

“Black Widow,” the ostensible first installment in the MCU’s Phase Four, has landed, both in theaters and via premium access on Disney+. Directed by Cate Shortland from Eric Pearson’s screenplay, the film centers on the titular Black Widow and her doings during the period between “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

It’s an interesting choice, taking a leap back chronologically with the leadoff film of the newest phase. And some of the narrative wind has been knocked from its sails due to the pandemic delays – Marvel’s three MCU-connected TV shows were supposed to follow this film; instead, they came first. Those looking for big advances to the overarching MCU narrative will likely come away slightly disappointed; the nature of this film means that major revelations are unlikely. However, when judged on its own merits, “Black Widow” is solid action-adventure; not top-tier Marvel, but far from the worst.

Published in Movies

One of the joys of awards season is the opportunity to not just see excellent films, but to see films that are excellent in ways that you hadn’t anticipated.

Take “The Favourite,” for instance. It’s a period piece set in the court of England’s Queen Anne in the early 18th century; it tells the story of two women battling to curry favor with her. There are phenomenally talented performers in those three leads and excellent actors up and down the roster. Sounds pretty straightforward, no?

But then you learn that the director is noted weirdo auteur Yorgos Lanthimos and that the central conflict has a healthy amount of psychosexual manipulation and a little slapstick anachronism to accompany the palace intrigue and things are DEFINITELY not straightforward anymore. Excellent, for sure, but not straightforward.

“The Favourite” is an odd amalgamation, a sex farce in costume drama’s clothing … and it works wonderfully. It is sumptuously filmed and audaciously performed, an utterly fearless and unapologetically strange film. It is a cracked-mirror Merchant-Ivory production, a great piece of cinema that arrives at that greatness via paths both conventional and surprising.

Published in Movies
Disney offering offers decent family fun

There are few places in cinematic history as iconic as the Land of Oz. 1939's 'The Wizard of Oz' is more than a family classic; it's a pop cultural touchstone as significant as any in film. Plenty of subsequent artists have returned there in the years since, with varying degrees of success. Big-screen trips to Oz have basically been flops.

'Oz the Great and Powerful' is Disney's latest attempt (their last was 1985's 'Return to Oz') to travel down the yellow brick road. 

Published in Movies

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