This is the first horror movie in a very long time that I actually enjoyed. I had a blast the entire way through and I'm ready to watch it again. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Malignant is a good movie in that it is a well made movie, but it is a true pleasure to experience. The CGI is just terrible the entire time and the story is awful and the acting is kind of crap and the score is like a generic rock version of the Bones theme song. This movie is crap, but it's fun crap. It's a big, dumb, stupid horror movie and it knows it and revels in it. At no point did I think the movie was taking itself seriously; it was just screwing around for two hours. No spoilers, but the plot is so stupid but it's just ridiculous enough that I'm thinking "Holy crap, they're really doing this!". There are tons of set-ups that go nowhere and tons of stupid little movie logic things, but it kind of just works. Again, this is not a good movie like Fincher of Kubrick film or whatever, but it's pure, unbridled James Wan having fun. There is a debate about the intention of the film and how much of what I love about it is intentional. Is this a parody/homage to crappy B-movies or is it actually a crappy B-movie itself. Does James Wan think he's making a real movie or is he was he just out to make a bat-shit crazy, fun movie? Are we laughing at his ineptitude or is he in on the joke? To me, it's obviously just supposed to be a fun movie with little winks and nods towards awful horror movies. There are far to many things like the opening scene, which feels like a terrible set up for an 80's sci-fi movie, and the opening credits which could easily have been from any of the generic CBS police/fire/detective/etc shows. If I was judging this impartially, it's like a two at best, but my heart wants to give it a five. It really is the first time in a long time that I've watched a movie and had this much glee the entire time. I really can't undersell how much fun I had with this movie. The hitch for you is just how far into stupid territory you are willing to go. It's kind of like the Fast & Furious of horror. With F&F, I felt it was taking itself too seriously for the outrageously unrealistic and nonsensical crap it was showing me. Malignant knows that it makes no sense and is one more popped eyeball away from being a big budget Troma movie. It's easily my best film of 2021.
Although his humor doesn't always line up with my tastes, I love how well Taika Waititi can hit those emotional notes and make a cute, charming movie without ever coming across as overly sentimental or saccharine. Boy does so much of the important things right that it's an easy recommendation for most people, but it's not quite a polished as, say Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The acting is 95% perfect (a few over the cousins and the brother aren't great) and I really found myself rooting for and sympathizing with James Rolleston' character. Boy touches on a lot of heavy things but it does them with such grace that it's almost forgivable how much of it they hit with kid gloves. Really, my only issue is that the story as a whole is kind of lackluster and could have used some fleshing out. There are lots of plot threads that just don't get enough attention and the ending is unsatisfying considering the build up, which does kind of grow and grow and explode but then barely left a mark. Boy is an enjoyable movie that, although it never really made me laugh, is full of heart and personality.
There certainly is a lot to like about The Sucide Squad and most of that comes down to James Gunn. Most of the acting is pretty okay (except John Cena who again proves incapable of acting be it in the ring or on the screen), the effects were passable, and the gore was over the top and fun. Everything else I put on Gunn. The humor was a little less frequent than I anticipated, but it was used well. I am honestly shocked with how well they used King Shark. I totally expected him to be all over this movie with stupid "dumb fish" jokes, but they actually use him sparingly and pretty good when they do. I felt some pacing issues and although I appreciated jumping right into the action, the way the story is told is unnecessary and I ended up wanting more backstory to the characters. I love Gunn's style and his fingerprints are all over this film. For 80% of the movie, he had me hooked, but there are certainly scenes that drag and the post-credits scene is awful and I really don't like where it's headed. I wouldn't give The Suicide Squad an Oscar or anything (although I guess if the original got one, why not), but it is a solid popcorn movie that has a new filter for comic book movies. Like a mix of Guardians of the Galaxy with Deadpool's Screw You attitude.
Even if we ignore the entire plot and all of the acting I'd watch this again just to see some of those rooms again. Ex Machina has Blade Runner 2049 vibes (I know it came out 3 years later, but I saw Blade Runner first) in plot, sets, and themes. Ex Machina is small scale story that is told very well and explores some ideas that aren't exactly novel, but it does them way better than the average AI film. The main idea is that our lead is brought in to be the human element in a Turing test to determine if Oscar Issac has created a true artificial intelligence. All of the acting is solid and the effects are mostly good (there are some questionable scenes about an hour in). I don't want to ruin any of the story beyond what the synopsis would tell you, but (of course) our lead becomes attached to the android and how quickly their relationship forms is highly unrealistic. This is my biggest issue with Ex Machina; they rush the relationship and our lead makes a lot of movie logic decisions. I loved everything else, but I that part really bothered me.
There is so much about Black Widow that feels so wrong. This keeps getting pitched as both an origin story and a sendoff for the Black Widow character, but it doesn't really do either. First issue is that this movie feel like it was meant to be released right after Civil War and not just because that's when it takes place. This film should have been released four or five years ago, where the stories were smaller and this movie had more wiggle room to do important things without having to worry about continuity issues or having the tension undercut because we know hoe certain things have to shake out because we've had eight films between here and Endgame. If we pretend it's 2016 and we're a few months removed from Civil War, Black Widow is a cute little side quest that introduces some new characters but is very small in the scope of the MCU, has no consequences on anything outside the film, and is totally skipable. Age of Ultron already gave us most of Natasha Romanoff's backstory and we don't get anything groundbreaking here. We get a quick little episode from when she was a preteen(?) and then jump to post-Civil War. I don't think the preteen stuff felt like it was out Black Widow and I was kind of beginning to fear that something went wrong and Disney+ was showing me the wrong movie because it was was too cutesy. The main story is about dealing with a figure from Natasha's past. We don't really explore much untouched ground as far as an origin story goes and she kind to takes a back seat too often to feel this was any kind of goodbye. I liked Florence Pugh's character and of course Rachel Weisz is a great actress, but we spend a lot of time establishing Pugh instead of savoring our last two hours with Natasha. As a story with virtually no stakes for the MCU as a whole, it's fine although sappy and David Harbour is terrible (his scenes have the worst attempts at humor and his "acting" has always been awful). It feels like when an anime series has an OVA that you could just plug in anywhere in the middle of the story an be okay because it's self-contained and inessential. Pugh has some solid jokes and easily has the best Russian accent. Really, Pugh is the best part of Black Widow and the only thing worth praise; everything else was average, vanilla. Their take on Taskmaster is boring and really strips away what makes that character interesting. They mention that Taskmaster can replicate/mimic other people's fighting styles to the point that it's like fighting a mirror, but beyond one quick scene where they tease that Taskmaster is going to use Black Panther's move set, they never touch it. I was ready to see Taskmaster grabbing a shield and hurling it like Captain America or maybe a little Hawkeye action, but they do nothing with it. Taskmaster is just another boring suit with no personality, nothing to make them special, much like the entire movie. There are all of the usual movie logic moments we'd expect along with the uninspired cinematography and fight choreography. Black Widow ends up painfully average. It really doesn't even feel like a Marvel film. Sure, I watched it in my living room and not in an Imax, but I've seen most of the MCU movies on my couch and they still had the gravitas and that epic feeling. I saw Infinity War in both and it feels grandiose either way. Even smaller scale movies like Dr. Strange or movies I don't even like like Captain Marvel or Antman still feel like big Marvel Movies. Black Widow feels like it is to the MCU what Luca was to Pixar; it's just something we plopped on Disney+ for free, except I paid $30 to be mildly entertained by Black Widow and I got to be disappointed at Luca for no more than my monthly subscription fee. Unless you are one of us who feels obligated to see every MCU movie or Natasha is one of your top five superheroes, I'd wait until after October when it's free on Disney+; there isn't anything here that's going to be a water-cooler moment or something your friends are going to be talking about for weeks. We get a great performance from Pugh and a shit one from Harbour, those are the big notes, the rest is just there. After all this time talking about how Black Widow was going to be our big send off for Natasha, I can't help but be disappointed. We don't get any of the callbacks that they gave Iron Man or Captain America, we don't get to see a new side or deeper side of her, and it could be debated that she's not even the main character of her own film. Had this been just another Phase 2 film in in the 2010's, it would have been a neat little film about what Natasha was doing while the Avengers were dissembled, but in 2021, hearing them talk about the Sokovia Accords and Thaddeus Ross again makes it feel dated and most of the people I was with couldn't even remember what/who those are. This either needed to be a true origin story with either Natasha in the KGB or how she got out or it needed to be a true sendoff with all of the fanfare an fan service the character deserves. What we got is like a bonus chapter that is in the back of the Target exclusive hardcover that covers an event that was originally cut because it wasn't important enough to keep in the real book. Natasha deserved better, Scarlett Johansson deserved better, and for this being the first MCU movie in two years, we deserved better.
The Midnight Gospel is literally just re-spliced podcasts with a few lines of newly recorded dialog that play while an entirely unrelated lazy animation plays. They tell you the premise is something similar to the Interdementional Cable episodes of Rick & Morty, where our main character picks a different world simulation to join. I love the idea, but as soon as we join the new world, they start a "data-cast" and start talking about pseudo-intellectual crap that has absolutely nothing to do with what we are seeing going on. The first episode has the main character talking to Dr. Drew about drugs and meditation while fighting of a zombie apocalypse. You almost have to review the visual and audio elements separately. The audio is taken from Duncan Trussell's podcast and the add in a few lines to mention what is happening in the episode, but 98% is the most pretentious and inane conversations I've ever heard. It's two people who know nothing stroking each other's egos about stuff they heard in a Psych 101 class and didn't entirely understand. Do you want to listen to potheads talk about how cool drugs are, magic, Buddhism, and transcendentalism? I sure don't. The actual visuals often look like beautiful black light posters you'd find in the back of a Spencer's store, but they aren't animated properly. The animation is so rough and jumpy that it feels like they need three or four times as many frames to smooth it out. The Midnight Gospels thinks that it is a super deep philosophy discussion, but it's really just a #Deep rant between two stoned High School Freshmen in their mom's basement. I wanted Interdemensional Cable animated by the Adventure Time guy and this is none of those things.
The Haunting of Hill House is hard for me to rate. On one hand, we have really great performances from almost the entire cast; even the kids did very well and I was never reminded that these are all actors ad none of this is real. The sets were really good too, whether it was the funeral home, the rehab center, or the titular Hill House, everything has well designed and as realistically creepy and unsettling. On the other hand I essentially finished only because of the whole sunk cost fallacy and the blind hope that maybe they can right the ship. Every paranormal movie essentially gets to create its own rules for how ghosts and such work, so I can't really complain about the realism of how they chose to write their rules. I will say, however, that their rule book is bullshit and the stupidest fucking mess I've ever read. I won't spoil anything, because the incredibly slow and arduous unrevealing of the mystery is really the only the story has going for it, but I found it to be purposefully obtuse and cheap. They are trying so hard to create a mind-fuck story with the constant flashbacks and (maybe) dream sequences and we never really know if people are really seeing things, if it's just stories they are replaying in their head, if it's hallucinations or if it is just that the writers are trying to give us a visual while someone is being told a story. 85% of the story is just a family drama. It's a compelling drama and the characters are great, but we were pitched and promised a horror and we barely get that. the other 15% is easily the worst part. They do a fair job creating a sense of unease, but literally every unveiling garnered a response of "Really? Fucking really? That's their explanation?" One of the last one makes sense, but one particular one really made me physically angry; it's just so nonsensical, stupid, and unrealistic even for a movie about ghosts. This did not need to be a 10+ hour series and they certainly didn't deliver on the impression of horror. If we cut out all the bullshit, we could have a solid four episode mini-series about a family dealing with loss. I really wanted to love Hill House and they have all of the pieces to make a great show, but they fucked it all up. The cast was outstanding and aside from child actor with a very minor role, everyone gave Oscar worthy performances. The ghosts and ghouls or whatever they actually were looked pretty bad, but the Hill House set looked great. If they gave the pieces to a different writer and director, Hill House could be a classic, but I hate what Mike Flanagan did with them.