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July 2021

Gunpowder Milkshake, a review

Gunpowder Milkshake seems like another attempt to adapt the John Wick formula outside of Wick-verse (is that a thing?). There is enough fun here for a light recommend. I’d give it 3 stoner van-mounted miniguns out of 5. Karen Gillan plays a credible bad-ass, Lena Heady can kill with a stare, and we need a modern Iron Mask re-telling with Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino, and Michelle Yeoh.

Poster for Gunpowder Milkshake including the main characters looking at the camera

The movie is about a woman whose mother—an assassin—abandoned her to a criminal cartel who exploited her greatest natural talent—violence. When I first saw the trailer, I was ready to buy in.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t live up to its potential. It meanders a fair amount, seems unfocused in many parts, and wastes an absolutely stellar cast with a movie that both tries to go to far with violence but doesn’t go far enough with the characters. Even while it has sparks of great fight choreography, it too often mistakes graphic violence for exciting action.

But a strong script with strong characters could have saved it. The cast is absolutely stellar, and was even able to squeeze some emotional investment out of this viewer, but the characters were nowhere near strong enough to balance out the deficits with the story.

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Black Widow, a review

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For those not interested in the all the blather, I recommend Black Widow especially to those who follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A great cast made me believe in the main characters, adding weight to even pedestrian lines. It made the movie immensely watchable. I give it 4 unstoppable machine-like assassins out of 5. I would argue the bombastic action set-pieces detracted from what could have been a very personal movie illuminating Black Widow’s past.

My family and I were able to catch Black Widow this opening weekend. It was at home, which is pretty much the only way that I will ever see a movie on an opening weekend. We’d be seeing this in the theatre if we considered that an option (we’re very careful in regards to the pandemic). In another time, we’d probably have seen it on the third or fourth week, when the initial rush had died down. Even when streaming is still an option, I’d rather put the extra $35 toward a theatre visit.

Black Widow movie poster

Black Widow occurs between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It follows an “on the run” Natasha Romanoff back to Russia as she seeks to stop the program that created her in the first place. We also glimpse the only family Natasha had before she met Clint Barton and joined the Avengers: a sleeper cell of Soviet agents while she was a child. Natasha learns that the leader of the Red Room project, which turns young girls into mindless assassins, is still alive and operating, and so she sets about to stop him.

This movie has the bones of an espionage thriller, not unlike Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War, so the less said about the various twists and turns the better. In the end, we have three new characters I would like to spend more time with, including Natasha’s sister—likely to be joining the MCU as the new Black Widow—and her father-figure, a hugely flawed but well-meaning Soviet-Captain America known as Red Guardian. Her mother—the brains of the operation—is a hero in her own right, being the one that ultimately is key to Natasha’s fight to stop the Red Room. It helps that all these characters are played by hugely capable actors who effortlessly inhabit their roles and make them likeable even when they are being unlikeable.

That’s what drove the movie for me. I believed in Natasha’s personal investment, in her need to complete her quest. I also believed—even when maybe she did not—in her connection to her fake family.

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The Tomorrow War, a review

My 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime (they keep offering me free trials, even after I’ve cancelled multiple times) gave me a chance to watch The Tomorrow War starring Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, and J. K. Simmons. I’m not going to say it was a total waste of 2+ hours, but it was mighty close.

Too long, didn’t read: I would only recommend The Tomorrow War to people who love Chris Pratt and don’t need their movies to make sense or have cool action scenes. If you just want Chris Pratt to be heroic, here you go. There’re some great J. K. Simmons moments, and the acting is generally good, but the writing is horrible. I give this 2 xenomorphs way smarter than people out of 5. I watched this so you wouldn’t have to.

The Tomorrow War official poster with Chris Pratt looking suitably heroic

Without spoiling too much, in The Tomorrow War, soldiers from the future come back to beg the modern world’s help to fight a war against aliens in the future which humanity is most definitely losing. A worldwide draft is instituted and Chris Pratt’s character—a former soldier and scientist—is conscripted for his seven-day tour of duty.

Yes. Seven. Days.

And that is just the start of the problems with this movie. Without getting into spoilers, it fits six pounds of stupid into a five-pound bag. That might be a bit harsh—though only a bit—but this movie is the ur-example of the idiot plot. This story only works if literally everybody—every. body—is an idiot.

People say “just turn off your brain and enjoy,” but the level of brain disconnect it would take for me to enjoy this movie would leave me comatose at best.

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