It is hard to conceive that Spider-Man, one of the biggest heroes in the world, was once not a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now that Peter Parker is an integral member of the pantheon and the MCU is one of the most lucrative franchises at the global box office, it feels natural. Spider-Man: Far From Home officially closes out the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as a sort of epilogue. It’s a fun movie, but most importantly it understands what makes its hero work.
The super rich are better than everyone else. It goes without saying. Writer director Bong Joon-ho (Okja) has different ideas, however: perhaps blind worship of the upper echelons at the expense of our fellow man is not the way that society should work. It’s just an idea he’s throwing out there. In Parasite, Bong looks like he might be turning out a Trading Places kind of caper, but there are darker forces at play. Bong has put out a very politely worded letter asking that critics not reveal too much of its inner workings. He was nice enough about it, and so batrock.net will do its best to honour his request.
A movie’s concept means nothing without execution. The dumbest ideas can become strongest films, and something that sounds amazing on paper can fizzle out on the screen. There’s a third combination: a dubious idea can become an incredibly dubious film. Cue Yesterday: a man wakes up from a coma into a world where the Beatles never existed, but almost everything else is the same. Any drama that springs from this idea is contrived at best, and there’s no twist to be seen.
The world folds in on itself. Someone knows what’s coming before it happens, subverting the future with highly attuned déjà fu. A book takes a while to reveal itself, and traverses multiple genres to get there. This is Recursion.
Robert Pattinson in space. It’s a concept, particularly for a man who amassed enough money early in his career that he can make whatever he wants for the rest of his life. He’s been in a limousine, he’s been a fascist, and now he’s practically alone on his way to a black hole. An existentialist French project, what we’ve always dreamed of for the man. High Life is less hard science fiction than it is difficult science fiction, but it works.
Men In Black was a genuine mid-to-late nineties phenomenon, released at that transitory time between VHS and DVD. Agents J and K returned twice more over the following fifteen years, with somewhat diminishing returns. People don’t like to admit it, but a way to refresh a franchise without rebooting it is to shift character focus and location. Cue Men In Black: International, a European alien adventure featuring two fan favourite Marvel actors, and a different perspective on intergalactic relations. Men In Black: International should be funnier than it is, but it does not have any of the bloat that one might expect from a 22 year old franchise.
There’s a classic genre: man has a public meltdown, goes into seclusion, and gradually grapples with his depression. Papi Chulo takes this idea and posits: what if the depressed man was gay? Andrew Sean Greer won the Pulitzer for a similar concept, and so writer-director John Butler (Handsome Devil) dares to dream. Papi Chulo is a sweet but often painful examination of one man’s life behind his impossibly cheery facade.
In the early 1980s, Stephen King had death on the mind. Moreso than usual. Cujo is the second in what is at least a loose trilogy of meditations on grief and mortality and, given that it is famously the novel that King does not remember writing at all, it speaks to something in his subconscious. It is a pity on all counts, because this killer dog story is one of King’s harder hitting works, emphasising his skill with the mundane. With no supernatural elements in play, and without the deep-seated nihilism that infected Roadwork, Cujo is a dark work with a sparkling undercurrent.
All things come to an end, but some come to more of an end than others. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is set to be the final X-Men movie after nineteen years, so you’d think that they would swing for the fences, try something big. In Dark Phoenix, writer Simon Kinberg (TV’s The Twilight Zone) attempts to revisit the story that he famously botched in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. The good news: it’s nothing like that movie; the bad: it’s nothing much like anything, really. Logan was an ending but, with this addendum, nearly two decades fizzle out on the screen.
A wise Hulk once said “big monster”. He wasn’t talking about Godzilla, but these two words sum up Godzilla II: King of the Monsters regardless. In 2014, Godzilla was controversial because it barely featured the title beast, and his opponents were nondescript. Godzilla II: King of the Monsters not only takes a mere minute to feature our hero, he has a whole menagerie of distinct fiends and friends to commune with. 2019 is a good year for fans of giant lizards.