By A.D. Beal
A prequel set after the events of Civil War, where Natasha Romanoff faces her origins and past demons to shape a better future for her loved ones. There’s really not much to say if you’re familiar with the MCU (Marvel Comics Universe) at this point. Though some interesting ideas are present (namely the Red Room’s parallels with human trafficking) and Cate Shortland shows some great action directing skills, Black Widow is a very underwhelming film. It is mostly brought down by its mediocre script, which continues Marvel’s commitment to bathos while not really going into the themes it presents. Add Scarlett Johannson’s clearly disinterested performance, like she’s ready to be done with this series, and you bring her time as the Black Widow to a two-plus hour death. On the upside, Yelena Belova is actually quite likable, but I attribute that mostly to Florence Pugh’s performance. Florence is a standout who brings an energy and personality that differs her from Natasha and, in this case, clearly outshines her. I cannot say the same for the characters of Red Guardian and Melina, though the actors are certainly trying, it is just not enough. It’s a film that feels like it’s trying to be a more classic thriller film but is unfortunately held back by the expectations and similarities of prior MCU films.
Summer Of Soul (….or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
A documentary about the overlooked Harlem Culture Festival of 1969. This includes never before seen footage of the event. Few films from 2021 have had moments that brought out my emotions like the scenes in Summer of Soul. We see the performers and festival goers relive their memories through past and newly found footage of the actual event. The emotions portrayed through their reactions say it all. Ahmir Khalib Thompson, better known as Questlove, shines in his directorial debut. The mixing of archival footage of the festival, news of events at the time (notably the moon landing), and interviews is beautiful. It gives you a coherent and thorough view of what those living at the time felt, and how the festival complemented it.
F9: The Fast Saga
The return of Dominic Toretto and his crew as his long lost brother resurfaces with an old enemy. F9 has a sincerity missing from some of the more recent Fast films. It knows it’s over the top, but like the best entries in the series, it commits to it, playing it with an authenticity that the actors go with. John Cena is perfect for this series, as his energy makes his character interesting and surprisingly nuanced. Justin Lin reminds everyone how he’s still one of the best big budget filmmakers working today, giving a coherent and exciting vibe to the action. The remaining cast is still a lot of fun, especially Michelle Rodriguez.
A hitwoman must reunite with her estranged mother after a job goes horribly wrong. Gunpowder Milkshake really wants to be a stylish, Tarantino-esque action film with quirky characters and old school homages. Unfortunately, underneath all that style lies little substance. A brilliant cast is wasted on paper thin characters, a generic story, and action that’s been done to death before. There’s only so many times you can do neon-soaked long takes before the novelty wears off. There’s also no actual exploration of the passing of generational scars and violence that it introduces. What a disappointment.
The Suicide Squad
Don’t Breathe 2
The Night House
Paw Patrol: The Movie