‘Shang-Chi And The Legends Of The Ten Rings’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In the superhero world, there are origin stories that are fairly generic. The same formula runs its course and we are left with another hero, who will soon be integrated in the fabric of the MCU. In this case, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feels like a breath of fresh air in the Marvel universe. We have our first Asian-American hero leading their own standalone film. Director Destin Daniel Cretton, brought together so many different elements in Shang-Chi, to make it feel authentic and comic accurate. Martial-arts master Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) must confront his past, when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

The film begins with a history lesson, as legendary Tony Leung makes his American screen debut, he tells the story in Mandarin. The opening of this film is beautiful and sets the tone for the rest of the film. We have light and dark elements coming together to work as one, through the power of love. We see that the martial-arts in Ta-Lo are very fluid, almost like a choreographed dance, between Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Jiang Li (Fala Chen). It almost felt like a love language, as they danced together and became connected to one another. From that moment on, I knew that Shang-Chi was going to be something special. The visuals and the fight choreography alone, made this a unique entry in the MCU.

New trailers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Halloween  Kills, and more
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

It was very easy to follow, which helped the pacing of this film. It did have some trouble finding its footing in the first half but once they had a plan, it was smooth sailing and it was fast-paced. The chemistry between Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) was great, and I really appreciated that they did not force any romantic relationship on them. It was platonic, and you saw the genuine love they had for each other, as friends. They worked together to reach their own individual potential, and it was really great to see their development at the end of this film.

When structuring an origin story, the childhood flashbacks need to be integrated in a way that will push the hero forward, without too much exposition. In this case, for Shang-Chi, I felt that they showed so much of his upbringing, instead of preaching to the audience. There are many moments in this movie, that will get you emotional because of how Shang-Chi and his sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) were raised by their father. Some traumatic moments stayed with them and shaped them into the person they are present day. The story flowed naturally and there were some different choices made, which I appreciated.

New Shang-Chi trailer unveils the real Mandarin, brings back Abomination  and Wong
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Shang-Chi is one of the most beautifully shot Marvel films. It was an abundance of riches; from the cinematography, to the costume design, and the fantastic score, that elevated every scene. The entire cast worked together so well, but Simu Liu held his own against Tony Leung. The fighting style is on another level, but it is exactly what we were all hoping for. The power set with the ten rings, is going to elevate so many fight scenes in the future and it really is exciting! Shang-Chi is so refreshing, fun, emotional, and will of course, leave you wanting more. These characters are all great and the final battle was amazing to watch on the big screen.

‘Black Widow’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Our beloved Natasha Romanoff, the one woman that was a part of the original six, and came in like a firecracker in Iron Man 2 finally has her standalone film. The wait for Black Widow was long, and no, it wasn’t because of the pandemic. After being in the MCU for 11 years, Scarlett Johansson deserved her standalone. It should have come after her debut, or even placed her right after Civil War (as the timeline intended) but Kevin Feige has a way of making everything work. Even though the placement is odd and did not really work for me, seeing her in her own film made me incredibly happy. Director Cate Shortland took what she knew about Natasha/Black Widow and really presented her in a way we haven’t seen her before.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff and Florence Pugh as Yelena in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2020. All Rights Reserved.

It wouldn’t have been a true Black Widow movie without the hand-to-hand combat and brilliant fight choreography. You felt every hit because the sound design made it crisp. The score also worked well during fight scenes but not enough to make it stand-out like some other original pieces. These fight scenes are on par with those in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and that is why I loved those scenes, especially when Romanoff was fighting. The main issue with Black Widow is that this does not feel like her movie. Majority was a set up for Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova. I’m not complaining because I adore her, but it still didn’t sit right with me. It felt like Johansson was sidelined in her own film, it was supposed to be her moment.

We do get to see how Natasha started out and how connected she was to Yelena. We are introduced to this dysfunctional family unit, as Melina (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei (David Harbour) are on assignment. The placement for Black Widow does make sense because the film explores Romanoff’s struggle with the idea of family. On this journey we see how much love she has for those around her. This movie added so much depth to her character and it is the development she needed in order for her to come full circle. The entire cast gave very strong performances, especially Florence Pugh, I also need to give David Harbour credit because his comedic timing was spot on.

(L-R): Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Alexei (David Harbour) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

My number one issue with Black Widow is the use of Taskmaster. When you first see the costume and see him in action, it’s absolutely wicked. Taskmaster is one of the best Marvel villains and when he was introduced in the trailer, I was beyond excited. His character being able to mimic, and go toe-to-toe with anyone in the MCU, was something I was looking forward to. But sadly, like most Marvel villains, he was underused. There was so much more they could have done with him and it was just underwhelming. There were strong action scenes, but there were also weak ones towards the end, that the poor CGI really took me out of the film.

Black Widow is your typical MCU film but the fight choreography is what puts it above majority of them. The banter between Natasha and Yelena was perfect. Their chemistry was electric and you could genuinely feel the love between them. It’s interesting because towards the end of Natasha’s arc, she became the heart of the team. She has changed the most out of all of them and we really see that in this film. Again, I have to praise Cate Shortland for giving us an action-packed film, with so much heart, key emotional moments, spurts of humour, and a post-credit scene that will knock your socks off.

Make sure to catch Black Widow in theatres or on Disney Plus Premier Access July 9th!

Martin Scorsese v. Marvel: Dawn of Justice

Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is in theatres today and will eventually be released on Netflix November 27th. The past month, the media has been in a frenzy over Mr. Scorsese’s comments about Marvel films and how he considers them a different form of cinema.

In my personal opinion, Scorsese is just reiterating what many people have been saying for the past five years. Disney has been pumping out these films year after year and they have been lacking in many departments. It’s killing the moviegoing experience for general audiences. He has compared the MCU to theme park rides because the entire franchise consists of EVENT films. Disney brings in the entire family, whether it be a Marvel film or a remade Disney live action, they have been able to make money on nostalgia and comfort.

The Future of Netflix Distribution Analytical Podcast
Link to blog post x

The film critics, cinephiles and movie lovers count down the days for independent films like The Irishman but the general audience has been conditioned to spend money on event films because of the rising ticket prices. No one will spend the money to watch a film that they are taking a gamble on. The podcast that is linked on the right is an in depth analysis of the new age of movie watching. In the podcast the discourse of film distribution, local movie theatre chains and streaming are all discussed. The general audience mainly goes to the theatre for a comedy or an action film and that’s the sad reality that Mr. Scorsese is addressing in this new age of filmmaking. He was never dismissing the hard work and dedication that has gone into each of these films but instead, how it has altered the thought process when deciding which film to watch in theatres and which films to watch at home.

(from left) Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Ray Romano in The Irishman (2019)

The Irishman is a gigantic film because of the calibre of actors, the streaming deal with Netflix AND he is delivering another classic mob film. There have been so many comments about who he is as a person and as a filmmaker, it seems that people haven’t done their research on what Scorsese has been doing for the past four decades. He has been pushing cinema forward with his own filmography and he has been preserving the history of cinema since 1990. Martin Scorsese genuinely loves every single aspect of this industry and for people to undermine him and disrespect his dedication to his craft is ridiculous.

It’s also incredible to me that journalists, who have studied for their degree, are pushing this discourse, while Scorsese is doing promo for The Irishman. You have one of the most renowned directors in front of you, with a massive film, which is a culmination of his entire filmography and you decide to get a soundbite for clickbait, rather than any film related content? Are his thoughts about a franchise really more important than the film he’s promoting? Also, why are you asking the Marvel actors/directors their thoughts about Scorsese’s comments, knowing full well that they have contracts with Disney?

The moviegoing audience has shifted and the way people watch films has also drastically changed. Martin Scorsese has been able to transcend generations with his filmmaking because he moves with the technological climate. When 3D came out, Scorsese made Hugo and the film was nominated because of his heartfelt story and homage to cinema history.

Asa Butterfield in Hugo (2011)

When movies were being shot on digital, Scorsese gave it a shot with the bombastic The Wolf of Wall Street and it was also nominated. It only made sense for Scorsese to head to a streaming platform for this gangster epic.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The reason why it’s so important that big filmmakers take a chance on Netflix, is so we can finally bridge the gap between streaming and theatrical distribution. A film like The Irishman in this current climate won’t even make a profit in a local movie theatre BUT showcasing this type of film on a streaming service, allows a guaranteed international release on multiple screens. Scorsese attempted to bridge the gap but movie theatres did not want to show a 3.5 hour gangster film, with older actors, when they could fill their screens with the latest action flick or Disney film.

If you really think about it, it took a director like Scorsese, to express everyone’s thoughts about the destruction of the moviegoing experience, for people to actually question Disney’s conditioning. There is original content that should be thriving and that’s the only point Martin Scorsese was trying to make.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Review

This is the movie I was waiting for.

This is the Peter Parker/Spider-Man I always dreamed of.

Tom Holland is the best teenage version of this hero and I am so happy Spidey is in his hands. He has such a dorky innocence to him and he plays the character so effortlessly.

Far From Home was a perfect Spider-Man movie because it incorporated many different aspects from the comics. The script was very compact and the twists flowed extremely well. I loved that the simplicity of Peter wanting to tell MJ that he likes her was the main plot and that saving the world multiple times became the obstacle. It made sense from a teenage perspective and I thought there was a solid balance. What I appreciated was that the memory of Tony Stark didn’t overpower Parker’s Spider-Man like in Homecoming and that’s why I enjoyed it so much more. Tom Holland is his own hero now and this film truly proved that he’s capable of carrying that title, not of Iron Man but of Spider-Man.

The one aspect that stood out the most was Mysterio. Jake Gyllenhaal has easily become one of the best villains in the MCU and I am so happy that they used him to his full capability! Mysterio was an excellent choice to bring in the multiverse and a great way to bring one of the most visually stunning action scenes I’ve seen in a very long time!

This was so perfect and I know Stan and Steve would be so very proud of this film! The mid credit scene was probably my favourite one to ever exist, I audibly screamed and my entire theatre started cheering! DO NOT MISS THIS MOVIE OR THE CHANCE TO WATCH IT IN 3D!

Dark Phoenix Review

Dark Phoenix is the final instalment in the X-Men universe and I have to admit that it was a pretty decent send off.

Over the years I have grown attached to the mutants because their issues were deeply rooted in humanity and we all see each other. So many people can relate to the X-Men in one way or another and I think that the franchise has done wonders for those who feel like they are different.

The X-Men franchise has been fairly consistent and they all finally showed their maximum power in Dark Phoenix. This film was a standard X-Men film. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you really won’t be disappointed because it’s exactly what you would expect. What Kinberg did that was great is that he kept the same tone of the universe and I really appreciated that.

I thought it was great that Jean Grey was finally front and centre, Sophie Turner was fantastic and I wish we could see more of her in this role! I loved that they showed her full power, especially when going toe to toe with Magneto! I felt like there wasn’t enough time to watch her soar and I wanted to see so much more!

It was actually really hard for me to say goodbye to them. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have done an extraordinary job in bringing Charles and Eric to life. The final scene with them getting ready to play chess made me tear up because it is the end of the X-Men, it’s the end of an era with these actors and it’s really sad.

The beauty of Dark Phoenix is that even though it’s a standalone, it still fits with the rest of the franchise and gives us more to enjoy from each character. The entire franchise still holds up and I will definitely keep them close to my heart.