21st Century ‘Black Widow’ Movie Review

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Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, Ray Winstone, William Hurt

Director: Cate Shortland

Running Time: 134 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: July 9, 2021 (Theaters and Disney+ Premier Access)

“Plug it in, plug it in.” That’s the classic slogan of the famed Glade air freshener line of products. I currently find myself revisiting it in light of having recently watched the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Black Widow, as my primary reaction to that movie was, “Well, that character has now been plugged into the MCU.”

Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova? She’s been plugged in. David Harbour as the Red Guardian? He’s certainly been plugged in. And Rachel Weisz as Melina Vestokof? Yet another character that’s been plugged in! Yes indeed, they plugged ’em all in.

Grade: 4 or 5 Tasks out of 1 Taskmaster

This Is a Movie Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

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CREDIT: Amazon Studios

As the movie with perhaps the most tortured backstory in the history of cinema, it is unsurprising that The Man Who Killed Don Quixote incorporates plenty of elements about the difficulty of mounting a massive production. Of course, as it revolves around a man who is convinced that he is actually Cervantes’ title adventurer after starring in an adaptation of the novel, it was always going to be somewhat meta. I don’t think Terry Gilliam taps into anything especially uniquely profound in this regard, but it does feel like he is facing the plain truth right in its face. I have made a few short films myself, and I have a brother and plenty of friends who have worked in film and TV, so I understand the instinct to incorporate what’s going in your life into the films you make. Thus, in the end, this whole quixotic endeavor feels oddly comforting to me.

I give The Man Who Killed Don Quixote A Hug and a Lullaby.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ Because Rowan Atkinson is Still Capable of Wonderful Silliness

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CREDIT: Giles Keyte/Focus Features

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2018.

Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Emma Thompson, Jake Lacy

Director: David Kerr

Running Time: 89 Minutes

Rating: PG for Chaotically Silly Action and a Quick Shot of Someone’s Bum

Release Date: October 26, 2018

There is a scene about halfway through Johnny English Strikes Again that sums up the appeal of this spy spoof. As the title MI7 secret agent, Rowan Atkinson is tasked with preparing for an infiltration mission by navigating a VR simulation of the mansion that he will be breaking into. There is a moving platform that he is supposed to remain on throughout, but he hits the wrong button and ends up wandering through the streets of London with his VR goggles on, oblivious to the everyday city life continuing to go on around him. He completes the simulation with miraculously little disorientation, but he is wholly unaware (and effectively unaccountable) for all the havoc he has left in his wake. Johnny English is absolutely a Supreme Bumble in the Atkinson mold, but his confidence is unparalleled and (because of some mix of forces beyond our understanding) he is the perfect man for the job.

This James Bond parody quite reminds me of The Stupids, the Tom Arnold-starring, John Landis-directed underrated gem about a family of supposed fools who somehow manage to foil a black market arms deal. English is a lot more respected by his peers and colleagues than the Stupids are, but he is still prone to pratfalls and inadvertent pants-droppings. But his record is clear: where everyone else is foiled, he is the one who brings the evil mastermind to his comeuppance. In terms that we can understand, the traits that serve him best as both a spy and a movie are his unbridled enthusiasm and his admirably unapologetic nature. In this chapter, that means we also get to see Atkinson dance to such club hits as Darude’s “Sandstorm” and Sigma’s “Changing,” and how can you say no to that? Altogether, this is delightful English silliness we can all benefit from having in our cinematic diet.

Johnny English Strikes Again is Recommended If You Like: Rowan Atkinson, Proper British silliness, The Stupids

Grade: 3 out of 5 London Lemmings

This Is a Movie Review: The Death of Stalin

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When it comes right down to it, people are just people. This is the thought I have when watching the scene in The Death of Stalin in which a group of officials bumblingly drop the body of the dying Soviet Premier onto a bed. No matter how despotic things get, we are still beholden to our embarrassing physical realities. Alas, when the film starts to regularly show people shot in the head without a second thought, it is hard to remain Zen about the situation.

I saw Death of Stalin at the Alamo Drafthouse, and the pre-show programming included parts of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus episode “The Cycling Tour,” which features Michael Palin bungling his way into being the target of a Russian firing squad, who famously misfire at him from only a few feet away. As I prefer my gallows humor with plenty of goofiness, “The Cycling Tour” is definitely more comfort food for me than The Death of Stalin. That is not to say the latter is unsuccessful. I see what Armando Iannucci is doing, I acknowledge that he has met his goals, I laugh where I can, and then I move on, newly grateful that I live in a society that is not quite so dangerous as 1950s USSR.

I give The Death of Stalin 4 Impossible Promises out of 5 Buggings.