A Not So Valiant Effort

Bloodshot misses the mark. Although I’ve always been a huge superhero fan, even I never heard of Valiant Comics until maybe 5 years ago. You’d be surprised at just how many obscure comic book titles there are. Bloodshot was yet another futile attempt to launch a cinematic universe. Harbinger would’ve been the next installment, but nobody’s really asking for that. Bloodshot seemed like a badass anti-hero deserving of some media attention. Since I figured it would be bad, I only saw the movie out of obligation. I saw Bloodshot by myself, but it has the unfortunate honor of being the last movie I saw before the theater shutdown. The pandemic forced it onto streaming 2 weeks after release.

Despite fans clearly craving comic accuracy, Bloodshot is more Vin Diesel action flick than superhero movie. Although Bloodshot’s origin isn’t always consistent, he’s either mafia hitman Angelo Mortalli or covert operative Raymond Garrison. Diesel plays U.S. soldier Ray Garrison who loses his wife and his life to a mercenary. Bloodshot feels like a generic 90’s superhero movie with shady organization Rising Spirit Technologies led by Guy Pearce. KT is Ray’s sexy fellow soldier, Jimmy Dalton is a throwaway villain with a suit resembling X-O Manowar, and Wigans is an overly eccentric hacker.

RST manipulates Ray with false memories in order to eliminate enemies like one played by Toby Kebbell. In the comics, Bloodshot was infused with regenerating nanotechnology that gave him chalk white skin, red eyes, and a red spot on his chest. The movie keeps the overall ability, but the R rated story is watered down to a PG-13. Diesel doesn’t bother wearing a wig or looking like the character at all. Ray only looks like Bloodshot when he overexerts his power at the end. Bloodshot is more or less dead on arrival.

Bloodshot

Bloodshot vs. Jimmy Dalton

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

Ghostbusters: Afterlife finally answers the call fans like me have been waiting for. Ghostbusters III has had an especially complicated production for over 3 decades. Ghostbusters is a comedy classic, but Ghostbusters II was mostly unremarkable. The franchise was kept alive through the last 3 seasons of The Real Ghostbusters, the radical 90’s series Extreme Ghostbusters, comics, and video games. Ghostbusters: The Video Game was the closest thing to a third movie with the original cast returning. Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts were fine with another sequel, but Bill Murray had his doubts. Let’s just pretend the 2016 female Ghostbusters never happened.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the true love letter to the franchise. It’s a symbolic passing of the torch since Jason Reitman assumes the directing mantle of his father Ivan Reitman. The teaser seemed to come out of nowhere, but I had hopes for the movie. After waiting another year due to the pandemic, Afterlife ended up being nostalgic without feeling like overkill. There are several callbacks to the original, but this is definitely a Jason Reitman coming-of-age style movie set in a small town. Carrie Coon is Egon’s estranged daughter and struggling single mother of two. McKenna Grace’s Phoebe Spengler is practically Egon reborn as a nerdy teenage girl. Finn Wolfhard fulfills the Stranger Things prophecy of him becoming a young Ghostbuster.

Afterlife is like Extreme Ghostbusters with an ethnically diverse next generation catching ghosts. Much like Chris Hemsworth, Paul Rudd is an MCU actor who brings the most laughs as Phoebe’s science teacher. The humor is far more natural and less desperate compared to the 2016 film. It’s fun seeing familiar tech like the Ecto-1, Proton Packs, or a P.K.E. Meter, but it’s equally neat to see features like a gunner seat or a remote controlled trap. While Silmer would’ve been a welcomed cameo, Muncher is a suitable replacement. The funniest callback is an army of mini mischievous Stay Puft Marshmallow Men instead of one big one. I think the villain choice is the only thing that could’ve been more original. Aside from that, the returning Ghostbusters are never disrespected and don’t feel like a deus ex machina. There’s even a surprise that left me a little emotional. Ghostbusters: Afterlife ain’t afraid to give fans exactly what they want.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

The Ecto-1 in a field

Preceded by: Ghostbusters II

Wildest Dreams

Spirit Untamed took a forgotten DreamWorks Animation property and made it cliché. Although I watched Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron when I was a kid, it was never a personal favorite. I mostly respected its mature storyline and decision to focus on an ordinary horse. Since traditionally animated DreamWorks films are long gone, a computer animated Netflix series sprang up 15 years later. I knew Spirit Riding Free was popular with young girls, but I didn’t think that warranted a theatrical movie.

Even though Spirit Untamed is only loosely connected to the series and has almost nothing to do with the 2002 original. Spirit Untamed feels completely pointless with unimpressive computer animation, childish humor, and a stereotypical “girl and her horse” premise. Not even proven newcomers like Isabela Merced, Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace or name actors like Jake Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore, or Andre Braugher can elevate it. It’s still set in the Wild West, but Spirit’s internal Matt Damon monologue is removed.

Instead Hispanic youth Lucky is a typical rebellious kid who wants to ride horses like her late mother. She leaves her aristocratic lifestyle for the rustic Western town Miradero. Lucky befriends the ethnically diverse Pru and Abigail, her absentee father disapproves of her riding, and that’s about how deep things get. Lucky rides with her pals to rescue Spirit’s herd from stock horse wranglers. Apart from not hearing his thoughts, Spirit is the same unbroken horse he was before. Which isn’t enough to make Spirit Untamed a welcomed return.

Spirit Untamed

Lucky befriends Spirit

Spin-Off of: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Neither Silent, Nor Deadly

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is a blatant disregard for everything the silent ninja stands for. After the unexpected success of Bumblebee, a Snake Eyes prequel didn’t sound like a bad idea from Hasbro. He is the most popular G.I. Joe character after all. The problem is the franchise never having a strong foundation. However bad they may be, at least Transformers is relatively consistent. G.I. Joe only has 2 loosely connected live-action movies. Rather than follow a mysterious badass silent ninja with a cool black outfit, this Snake Eyes gladly shows his face, won’t shut up, and only wears his iconic suit for 24 seconds at the very end. Only true G.I. Joe fans will understand how wrong that is. It’s one of many reasons I think the movie bombed. The Pandemic notwithstanding.

Snake Eyes answers so many questions that nobody asked. His name came from a pair of dice, he learned to fight in a Japanese ninja clan, and no explanation is given for any of his other defining traits. Even though Ray Park was a perfectly capable martial artist, Henry Golding was probably cast to keep the cast mostly Asian. Most cast members are also martial artists. Even though director Robert Schwentke settles for intense shaky cam action. Making all ninja fights feel generic no matter who performs them. Snake Eyes is kind of a jerk with no personality seeking revenge for his father. G.I. Joe and Cobra Command practically come out of nowhere with only a handful of members present.

Storm Shadow is equally misused with Andrew Koji looking like a complete pushover named Tommy. He’s the heir to the Arashikage clan who’s more friend than foe. Until he randomly calls himself Storm Shadow at the very end. Baroness is a lot better with the appropriately foreign Úrsula Corberó in the part. A red haired Samara Weaving is also perfect as Scarlett, but she feels just as wasted in such a small part. Way more attention is given to original female ninja/love interest Akiko. Raid star Iko Uwais and 300 star Peter Mensah are present as Hard Master and Blind Master respectively, but their tests feel basic. Snakes Eyes must take a bowl of water, have a vision, and survive a pit of giant CGI snakes. The latter test embraces the supernatural element of the toy franchise. Yet a forgettable villain stealing a magical explosive jewel still comes out of nowhere. By the time Snake Eyes gains his ninja suit, I honestly felt nothing for what that meant. Snake Eyes is a reboot, a spin-off, and an origin story that nobody asked for.

Snake Eyes

Snake Eyes gears up

Don’t Have a Good Day, Have a Great Day

Free Guy isn’t a good movie, it’s a great movie. Although I think it is very Deadpool light. Free Guy is also like Ready Player One with a dash of The Matrix, a drop of The LEGO Movie, and a touch of The Truman Show. It’s no secret that Ryan Reynolds practically plays himself nowadays. Although the concept of a self aware NPC in an open-world video game sounded cool, the marketing screamed PG-13 Deadpool. There were several jokes made about Disney since Fox developed the movie under the uncomfortable 20th Century Studios banner. Further delays included Deadpool & Korg crossovers and a muscular Ryan Reynolds interview.

It wasn’t until Free Guy finally hit theaters that I couldn’t help but have fun with the surprisingly heartfelt premise. Guy is just your average mild mannered bank teller who loves coffee, his Buddy played by Lil Rel, and “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey. Until he suddenly goes off-script and becomes the hero Free City deserves. Free City is an unmistakable combination of Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite. The movie’s video game appreciation is made clear with several cameos from real life YouTube and Twitch gamers. The heart comes from Guy falling in love with the sexy badass Molotov Girl. Killing Eve star Jodie Comer very convincingly plays both her British avatar and American player Millie.

Millie and her estranged co-creator Keys, played by a nerdier Joe Keery, have an unexpected impact on the game. Real world villain Antwan threatens to unplug the game if Guy isn’t deleted. This of course isn’t the first time Reynolds and Taika Waititi worked together (*cough* Green Lantern). There’s a nice sense of community when Guy fights to save his world’s existence. Although Free Guy isn’t without faults. It’s not Deadpool, but some jokes feel overly crude, PC, of blasphemous for my taste. Not to mention how profane it is without F bombs. The movie takes far better advantage of surprise celebrity cameos and unexpected references to Disney owned properties. The action is intense, but I expect nothing less from an entertaining shoot ’em up. Free Guy makes every concept work to its advantage.

Free Guy

Guy and Molotov Girl work together

Dirty Diaper

The Boss Baby: Family Business is no worse than the original Boss Baby. At this point I know what to expect from a more low effort DreamWorks Animation sequel. Most direct follow ups are just as good or better, but the bar was already pretty low. Family Business does have its moments like the original. It just wasn’t worth seeing it in theaters in a post-pandemic world. My brother and I paid for Peacock just to see it at home. I wasn’t looking forward to a sequel, but I knew it was inevitable after how the first movie ended. Similar to the book sequel The Bossier Baby, Family Business follows a female Boss Baby. Tim & Ted Templeton are grown ups as promised, but the movie does change a few things.

Anything from their childhood can be seen in the Netflix show Back in Business. Alec Baldwin is back, but Tobey Maguire wasn’t likely to return. He’s instead replaced by fellow Marvel superhero James Marsden. With Tim’s wife Carol being voiced by the hispanic Eva Longoria, their children Tabitha & Tina are both redesigned with mixed features. The computer animation is still simple and Tim is still imaginative, but his oldest daughter Tabitha is a typical smart girl growing up too fast. Ted is a CEO who showers his niece with money and honors his word to buy her a rambunctious pony. Now set during Christmas time, there’s conflict between the two brothers that can only be solved by doing the first movie all over again.

Amy Sedaris tries, but only the original Boss Baby can steal the show. Tina reveals herself to be a fellow Baby Corp worker with another important mission. She uses the magic pacifiers on her father and uncle, then turns them young again using the special formula. Except Marsden continues to voice his younger self. The new, but admittedly similar threat involves another villainous baby man. Jeff Goldblum is the intelligent Dr. Armstrong who plans to eliminate all grown ups at Tabitha’s advanced school. Tim bounds with his daughter, helps her sing “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,” and bounds with his baby brother yet again. Just add more unnecessary baby butts and that’s The Boss Baby: Family Business.

38. The Boss Baby Family Business

Tina turns Ted and Tim young again

Preceded by: The Boss Baby

Just Sing

Trolls World Tour is the best Troll 2 I’ve seen. Even if it did inadvertently harm the film industry for years to come. Like most DreamWorks Animation sequels, Trolls World Tour likely would’ve came and went if it was released exclusively to theaters. When the pandemic struck, Trolls World Tour became the first major movie simultaneously released on a streaming platform. So my brother and I were forced to watch the sequel from the comfort of our home. Turning the movie into a bigger success that nearly lead to a ban of Universal films for AMC theaters. Although Trolls World Tour isn’t really worth the extra attention, it is another surprisingly strong sequel that doubles the fun of the original. The computer animation is even more colorful with trippier images that would’ve been cool to see on a big screen.

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake are back to sing their hearts out. Since the soul focus of World Tour is the music. Turns out the Trolls are really one group in a tribe of Trolls defined by musical genres. There are Pop Trolls, edgier Hard Rock Trolls, aquatic Techno Trolls, winged Classical Trolls, centaur-like Country Trolls, and the Funk Trolls that look like the out of place giraffe creature Cooper. Plus more niche genres like Smooth Jazz, Yodeling, K-Pop, and Reggaeton. Poppy & Branch sort of hit the reset button since the latter constantly tries to confess his love. While Poppy makes a few poor decisions as the Queen of the Pop Trolls. She personally confronts Queen Barb of the Hard Rock Trolls with Branch and Biggie’s help. James Corden is promoted along with a few other returning cast members.

The Bergens are reduced to cameos. Leaving room for more voices like Rachel Bloom as the feisty Barb, Ozzy Osbourne as her father, Kelly Clarkson as the Country Troll mayor, Mary J. Blige as the Queen of the Funk Trolls, and Sam Rockwell as a helpful guide named Hickory. The diversity in music makes for a fun soundtrack that takes advantage of even more hits. Troll music is threatened when Barb seeks to unite everyone under rock. Although she seems like the villain, this is 2020. Of course the real enemies are circumstances from the past that no one can control. Though it’s not as annoying since the ultimate moral is embracing differences. Ending with a not as catchy final song that melds all genres called “Just Sing.” Trolls World Tour rocks without even trying.

36. Trolls World Tour

The Troll tribes united

Preceded by: Trolls

Warner Bros. The Movie

Space Jam: A New Legacy is corporate branding run amok. It’s no secret that nostalgia sells. So it was only a matter of time before Space Jam 2 finally entered active development. When Michael Jordan left the project, the closest thing to a sequel became the underrated Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Although Warner Bros. considered other sports icons to focus on, the only constant was other popular basketball player LeBron James. Space Jam has been a personal favorite of mine since childhood, but I never felt the need for a sequel. The already bizarre premise of the Looney Tunes playing a high stakes basketball game will only feel derivative the second time around. A New Legacy is one of many 2021 films released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming. Appropriate considering how much it feels like an ad for HBO Max. My brother and I saw A New Legacy in theaters with an audience of kids who all seemed to enjoy it. A New Legacy has several problems that I can only blame on current trends.

I’m still not a sports fan, but I of course know who LeBron James is. While he is a slightly better actor than MJ, there’s way too much hero worship placed on “King James.” LeBron’s fictionalized life plays out similar to Space Jam, but they include a father/son element that tries too hard to be sentimental. Especially for a movie concerned with IP. Don Cheadle is given a ton of attention as an evil algorithm named Al-G Rhythm. His unusual plan is to use LeBron’s success to insert him in existing properties. Everyone thinks it’s a bad idea, but the movie does exactly that. Al-G takes LeBron’s son Dom and sends him through the Warner Bros. Serververse. The LEGO Movie, Ready Player One, and Ralph Breaks the Internet did the exact same thing, but somehow A New Legacy feels more in your face. It’s nice to see the traditionally animated Tune World, but something about Bugs Bunny feels off. I know it’s manipulative, but I couldn’t help but have fun with Bugs searching several Warner Bros. movies or shows to find his friends.

That of course includes the DC Universe, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Matrix, and other more inappropriate franchises. There’s a serious double standard that doesn’t stop there. Daffy Duck, Tweety, Sylvester, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Porky Pig, Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner, Foghorn Leghorn, Granny, and Speedy Gonzales get to be on the team, but Pepe Le Pew is suddenly bad. Lola Bunny is also a non-sexualized tough girl with the slightly distracting celebrity voice of Zendaya. Granny is similarly given an unusual amount of attention. The Looney Tunes are computer animated against their will in a video game version of basketball attended by all the remaining IP’s that do nothing but watch. The Goon Squad can’t hold a candle to the Monstars since they’re all real life players I’ve never heard of. Neither can the very forgettable soundtrack that doesn’t even include the catchy “Space Jam” theme. Some of the jokes, including one about Michael Jordan work, but a rapping Porky Pig is pure cringe. The overlong sequel tries to have an emotional payoff that’s totally lost in a movie like this. Space Jam: A New Legacy is a no win situation.

Space Jam A New Legacy

LeBron James and Bugs Bunny play basketball

Preceded by: Space Jam

It’s Only a Matter of Time

Old doesn’t age well. After completing his surprise Unbreakable trilogy, Old became M. Night Shyamalan’s first original thriller since The Visit. I say original, but it’s actually based on an obscure French graphic novel called Sandcastle. Shyamalan simply gave it a more literal title and a twist that’s expected at this point. Old seemed like it could either be a second return to form or another awkward mess. I’m happy to say he gets it somewhere down the middle. Old is a genuine so bad it’s good Shyamalan flick on par with The Happening. I saw it by myself and couldn’t contain my laughter. Right from the start we get Shyamalan’s signature awkward dialogue and clunky storytelling.

Character’s literally ask people their name and occupation. Guy and Prisca are a foreign couple vacationing with their children Maddox and Trent. Old isn’t remotely scary, but the concept of rapidly aging on a beach is. It’s a beautiful location that Shyamalan shoots in his usual “artsy” way. Shyamalan’s cameo more directly affects the plot. It involves the rest of the resort goers who end up on the mysterious beach. There’s Charles, his much younger wife Chrystal, their 6 year old daughter Kara, and grandmother. There’s also the interracial couple Patricia and Jarin. Along with a rapper who was there before they showed up.

Although it tries to have the horror of Jaws with a very naked skinny dipper and surprisingly bloody PG-13 moments, the rules don’t always add up. People age at different rates with the kids almost immediately aging into Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie. Of course it is a little uncomfortable to think about kids suddenly going through puberty. Since time speeds up more than just their bodies. As the cast gets smaller, the entertainment value sorta drops. I definitely predicted some variation of the twist, but it gets old real fast. With several ups and downs, Old is a lot like the actual aging process in its execution.

Old

Older Maddox and Trent on a beach

The Falcon Fury

Scoob! has no idea what its identity is. Scooby-Doo has had more animated movies than any other cartoon property. Yet Scoob! is somehow the first theatrical animated movie in the franchise. Or at least it would’ve been if the pandemic didn’t push it to streaming. Although I still haven’t committed myself to the direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movies, Scoob! felt a little more necessary. It was computer animated and seemed to be made with fans in mind. Then everything changed when the Hanna-Barbera universe was announced. Turning Scoob! into yet another desperate attempt at an MCU style cinematic crossover. Half the time it feels like Mystery, Inc. is only used for their name recognition. What 10 year old child is gonna know who Dynomutt, Captain Caveman, or Dick Dastardly is? They don’t have half the staying power of Scooby-Doo, yet every obscure Hanna-Barbera character is given a computer animated update.

What’s worse is the over reliance on cringey modern slang and references to Netflix, Ikea, or the Hemsworths. It’s like the movie has no target demographic. The all-celebrity cast is a much larger issue that continues Hollywood’s lack of faith in voice actors. Will Forte is a surprisingly unenthusiastic Shaggy. Zac Efron sounds right on paper, but his Fred is way too full of himself. Gina Rodriguez is another non-white Velma, but her brains almost make her boring. Amanda Seyfried is also off, but I felt like she was a lot closer to capturing Daphne. Frank Welker is the only returning cast member who only voices Scooby. Maybe it’s his age, but even his voice felt off. Scoob! seems to be an origin story about how a child Shaggy met a pup named Scooby-Doo. That, along with his meeting with Fred, Daphne, and Velma all feels very underwhelming. You know mysteries aren’t important when a revision of the Where Are You! opening is the only thing that feels remotely mysterious.

A very out of nowhere (and creepily rendered) Simon Cowell sereraptes Shaggy & Scooby from the gang. Leaving Fred, Daphne, and Velma to look for them when they’re abducted by the Falcon Fury. Everyone has some Scooby-Doo knowledge, but I know next to nothing about the Blue Falcon. Mark Wahlberg voices the son of Blue Falcon with a gritty new costume. Ken Jeong voices Dynomutt and Kiersey Clemons is given top-billing as the only black Hanna-Barbera character Dee Dee Skyes. Shaggy really doesn’t feel like the fanboy type, yet that’s given more attention than anything else. Jason Isaacs is trying a lot harder than he needs to as the villain Dick Dastardly. His plan involves finding his dog Muttley and opening the underworld to release Cerberus or something. Tracy Morgan eventually shows up as Captain Caveman, but it’s just as tact on as everything else. Although it tries to make friendship the heart of the movie, Scoob! is more incorporated character branding than mystery solving.

6. Scoob!

Mystery, Inc. solve mysteries