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The reviews for Eternals are wrong.

Just because something is different from what you assumed you would get doesn’t make it bad.

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Eternals is an epic saga with beautiful imagery that ultimately succeeds in the monumental task of writing the history of the universe. I’m sorry if it wasn’t zippy enough for you. It’s not supposed to be.

I typically see a new Marvel movie the weekend it comes out. Once the presales are available, I go on my little app (shout out to AMC A-List, 12 movies a month for the price one) and pick a Thursday or Friday night showing, because I hate spoilers. I’m online all the time and I like to go into a new Marvel movie with a blank slate — if there’s a surprise cameo or a funny joke or an amazing action sequence, I don’t want it ruined by a tweet.

I waited a week to see Eternals because I wasn’t pressed. The reviews weren’t that great and I wasn’t all that excited about the trailer, so I didn’t really care about being spoiled. I said “I’ll see it when I get around to it.” For me, I was stuck on the fact that these beings had been here for most of human history and just sat around doing nothing. What possible explanation could there be to justify that? I felt assured that whatever retcon Marvel came up with would annoy me, that I would roll my eyes, that I would say, “Okay I guess we can go with that…”

Anyway, I saw it yesterday so here are some spoiler-free hot takes:

  1. The retcon works. Their explanation for doing nothing is really the only explanation that would work. (I’ll explain how I feel in the spoilers.)
  2. Eternals is a sci-fi epic drama led by an Asian woman featuring a gay couple and a deaf superhero. For that reason alone, you should you want to check it out. Give more than lip-service to diversity.
  3. This is a slow movie where a lot happens and also nothing at all. I love the pace and how the story unfolds, and it makes sense that this kind of storytelling was given to a director like Chloe Zhao. I really enjoy films where the story is given to you in small chunks told through flashbacks, because after each flashback, you see the character as a different person. Your view of the Eternals (as a team and individually) changes multiple times, and that’s exciting.
  4. Watching Angelina Jolie take a backseat to Gemma Chan is so surreal, but it works. Salma Hayak being the leader and not Angelina Jolie is also a great choice, because Angelina gets to act more in her role.
  5. That White House Black Market suburban mom skirt set Thena decided to wear when a certain cameo happens had me howling. All the fashion on earth, and she wanted to be business casual in Omaha.
  6. The little boy with the two dads is too cute and I hope he’s in the sequel.
  7. Makkari is a white man in the comics, and he can hear. Makkari is a deaf woman of color in Eternals and that’s it. No explanation for why she’s deaf. No effect on her character, other than assumptions from others that she can be fooled because she can’t “hear.” She’s just a deaf superhero. That is so cool to me! And she was acting acting.
  8. Kumail Nanjiani is probably one of the worst dancers in Hollywood. I’d heard he had trouble with the choreography during his Bollywood sequence, and watching it is so cringe because even in the extremely watered down moves they gave him….he’s off beat. They should’ve just scrapped the entire scene.
  9. He’s hilarious though. He and Karun, his valet, are easily one of the funniest duos in the MCU. Honestly, Karun might be my favorite sidekick in the MCU. He’s funny and genuine and likable and sincere and compassionate and real. I would like a series of web-shorts about Karun and his life.
  10. Druig is perfectly cast. Barry Keoghan first made an impression on me opposite Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which was not a film I enjoyed at all — but I was mesmerized by his performance. I can’t imagine anybody else playing that role.
  11. Gilgamesh is hot. Don Lee could absolutely [censored].
  12. Sprite is eternally young, and looks the part, but I still expected the actress to be in her early 20s. She was really grounded and held her own against some top notch talent, so I figured she was one of those actors with a babyface, like the Love, Actually kid who was 13-years-old for two decades. But no, Lia McHugh is only 16, so she was 14 or 15 during filming. Good on her.
  13. They did Angelina dirty with some of these wigs. I thought that blonde wig in Notable Perfect Action Film Salt was dry, but they gave mama some hay for a few of those scenes.
  14. A gay kiss! And I believe them as a couple! Further, these are eternal beings, meaning they’ve been around for thousands of years. The power and representation that has, that of all the people in all of the times and all of the places on Earth, the person who stole your heart is another man from the suburbs. And nobody cares or questions it or even mentions it. 11-year-old me is screaming! <3
  15. The climax falls flat. I can’t see any other way they could’ve shot it or written it, but it wasn’t the punch that I really wanted.
  16. Of all the Marvel movies I’ve seen, this is the first time the movie ended and I immediately wanted a sequel, because I wanted more story and I wanted to see what was going to happen next. There are Marvel movies I like more (Black Panther, Shang Chi, Ragnarok, etc.) but at the end of those, I was just looking forward to the next movie whenever. I want to know what these Eternals are going to be like going forward after this fundamental way they’ve changed their reason for existing.

Score: 7.5 / 10

Mild Spoilers…what the reviews got wrong.

I’m honestly annoyed at how low the Rotten Tomatoes score is. In the history of the MCU, from Iron Man up to now, critics really think this is the worst movie Marvel’s made? This is worse than the first two Thor films? This is worse than The Incredible Hulk? Just because something is different from what you assumed you would get doesn’t make it bad. If I’m used to going to McDonald’s all the time and getting a Big Mac, it’s not a bad dish if I get served a chicken pot pie. It’s great in its own way, even if that’s not what I was expecting.

Because the movie has a 47% Rotten Tomatoes score and an 80% Audience score, I must assume many people leave the theater feeling as I did — what movie did the reviewers watch? So! I’m going to rebut some of the confusing things the “professional” reviewers had to say about Eternals.

From Salon.com:

The Eternals watch as over time, humans commit shockingly atrocious and shockingly gracious acts, and come to understand that humanity’s mistakes, bonds, and ability to evolve are what make them human. It’s a beautiful message, especially as the exciting diversity of the cast speaks volumes about the breadth and range of humanity in its own way. Unfortunately, this uplifting message about humanity gets lost, somewhere between trying to remember who has what superpowers, what the Deviants want, and the chronologies of varying flashbacks. 

How is it hard to remember Thena, the goddess of war, makes weapons? That Ikaris, the boy who flew too close to the sun, can fly? That Sprite, the little kid, is good at make believe? That Gilgamesh, who looks like a powerlifter, is really strong? Also, the year shows up in big font at the bottom of the screen, and the flashbacks are chronological. 5000BC….present day….500 BC….present day….1500AD…present day….1947….present day….6 days ago….present day.

None of this is hard to follow.

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From CNET:

The powers themselves aren’t particularly memorable. Thena can make luminous weapons appear out of thin air. Ajak can heal. Sersi can turn stone into other elements. Ikaris can fly and shoot laser beams. The most interesting character to me was Phastos: He can seemingly invent technology whenever he wants. Among the group, no one is a jack-of-all-trades-type like Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, nor particularly specialized at their skill like Scarlett Johannsson’s Black Widow. At one point Ikaris is called Superman, only stamping home the feeling Eternals’ lacks a clear identity.

Ikaris flies (like Captain Marvel), fights (like Captain Marvel), and shoots energy (like Captain Marvel). Black Widow’s special skill is hand to hand combat. Sprite’s special skill is creating an illusion of anything she wants. How is that not specialized? How is Sersi turning a bus into rose petals not specialized or pavement into quicksand not specialized? How is Makkari running around the planet in 5 seconds not specialized?

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From Time Out:

The Eternals are God-like alien beings, sent to Earth by a bigger God-like being to protect humankind from not-entirely-explained monsters called Deviants.

The Deviants are explained very clearly. It’s ecology 101 — sometimes invasive species run amok. Has no one ever seen kudzu growing all over everything in the South?

————————————–

From Richard Roeper:

Fine, but when the stuff hits the fan in “Eternals” and the very future of the planet is at stake, why don’t the Avengers show up to lend a hand? Are they going to address that in a future “Avengers” movie? COME ON, MAN!

Sorry. It’s just that we get so much exposition in the ambitious, occasionally entertaining but bloated (the running time is 2 hours and 37 minutes), underwhelming, rambling, forgettable and average “Eternals,” it’s maddening a big question is unanswered. As it is, there are so many moments when the action grinds to a half so we can get further explanation of the history of these characters (they’re basically nearly immortal takes on the Greek gods) and why this one is doing this thing and that one is doing that thing. 

The Avengers don’t show up because the world is only about to end for about five minutes before Sersi stops it.

The bigger big question, of why the Eternals never showed up, is answered: why would they? It’s one thing to protect your crops (which is what humans are) from weevils (which is what Deviants would be, an invasive species screwing with your agriculture), but it’s quite another to go to war over some corn, especially when you have corn sprinkled all over the universe to feed your cattle (the Celestials).

I also assume “the action grinds to a halt” but anyway…do you want a film or do you want a video game? There is no reason to have non-stop action sequences. A fight ends, and then we talk for awhile. It’s literally how every action movie works.

————————————–

From Vulture:

But what does it matter to have, say, a gay kiss onscreen, when there’s no heat behind it? What does it matter if the women are of various hues and ages if you don’t care about their interiority?

What did you want Phastos and his husband to do? Tongue each other down on the front porch? He’s going off to war to save the planet.

Thena is having a mental breakdown because she doesn’t want to see another world destroyed. Ajak doubts her first mission in millions of years because she’s on a planet whose people saved half the population of the universe. Sprite follows the man she loves into folly because she’s been stuck in the body of a child for 7,000 years and she desperately wants to grow up and be loved. Sersi…the human she loves and the people she cares about are about to die while the robot she loved for thousands of years wants to let billions of people explode. Makkari literally screams in anguish — the only sound we hear her make — when she thinks Druig is dead. You don’t care about any of them?

————————————–

I could do this all day, but you get the picture. I personally feel like Eternals suffers from bandwagon syndrome — a couple of Important Critics didn’t like it (for reasons they didn’t put in print, like it was too diverse and felt too woke or it wasn’t the raucous ride they expected or they didn’t like being confronted with the fact that humans, as a species, are indeed not that great) so other critics followed suit with nitpicky grievances. Eternals is not a perfect movie. If it was, I would’ve given it a ten. It feels long, the chemistry between the leads doesn’t have half the chemistry of the side characters (Druig & Makkari 4 Lyfe), and it’s nearly impossible to be fully invested in nine brand new characters in the course of 2.5 hours.

But to say Eternals is worse than half the movies that come out is beyond ridiculous. The ambition and attempt at this scale already puts it out ahead, and it largely succeeds anyway.

 

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Don’t Look Up and the anxiety of hyperrealist satire.

A satirical comedy shouldn’t make me nauseous.

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I didn’t know much about it, but the few bits of reviews I saw for Don’t Look Up said it was a satirical comedy. One review said it was the funniest movie of the year while also the most depressing. I turned it off at 30 minutes because I hadn’t cracked a smile.

Two things about me:

1) It is very hard to make me laugh.

2) I’m at a point in my life where I am not interested in doing anything I do not enjoy.

To point one, I don’t think I’m necessarily surly, but my experience with humor tends to lean more toward me saying “oh that was clever” as opposed to laughing out loud. The things that make me laugh out loud are usually unexpected mishaps or unexpected jokes. Surprises make me laugh. I’m shocked by some of the one liners on The Golden Girls, and it makes me laugh out loud. I am shocked by the faces babies make when they eat lemons, and it makes me laugh out loud.

Clever writing rarely makes me laugh out loud, but I can very much enjoy it. You’ll never see me hootin and hollerin at Erma Bombeck, but I’ve read at least ten of her books. I don’t go to stand-up shows, because it’s hard to make me laugh out loud, and it’s rude not to laugh at a comedy show — but I’ll watch stand-up specials on Netflix because I enjoy the jokes if they’re smart and performed well.

I cannot find the jokes in Don’t Look Up. It felt like a documentary.

To the second point, up until recently I would say I suffer from depression and anxiety, but I’ve been dealing with it quite well as of late (with the realization being that much of my mental health has been tied to financial instability and I currently have a job I like).  But! Because I am always teetering close to the edge in some ways, I only want to enjoy things. I have no desire to voluntarily put myself in positions where I have to force myself to get through it. I don’t want to consume art that is a struggle for me to finish.

I cannot finish Don’t Look Up.

The experience of watching it was so strange for me because movies don’t really make me uncomfortable. I can watch just about anything even if I don’t like it that much. About 30 minutes into Don’t Look Up, I realized I had been sitting on my couch getting more and more wound up! My breaths were shorter. My stomach felt like I had just put ice cream into my lactose intolerant body. I have never physically disliked a movie so much! And that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It’s just not for me at all.

I don’t really like the world that much. No part of me is optimistic about the future of the planet. I don’t go around shouting it from the rooftops, because I believe in spreading love and happiness and doing what I can to help those around me enjoy themselves, but I am very much in full support of Team Asteroid. People as a collective are not that great. They’re selfish, they’re mean, they don’t take care of each other. There’s so much torture and pain running through the history of humanity. Legal, common, and popular approval of setting people on fire, ripping them into pieces, starving them, working them until they die — that’s the history of mankind.

Watching a movie that is telling me people are too stupid to save themselves doesn’t make me feel good. I can’t laugh at that, because that’s how I feel every day, and when I think about it, I feel awful. It makes me feel awful that people suck. It makes me feel awful to be reminded that there are a few people trying to save the world against an never-ending onslaught of purposefully ignorant bureaucracies.

I think Don’t Look Up is probably done well. Meryl Streep fully inhabited her character and I could feel Leonardo DiCaprio’s anxiety through the screen. Mark Rylance once again proved too many Best Of lists leave him out of the conversation for acting talents of a generation. It just stressed me out too much, so I’m going to watch something else instead. If you’re a mildly depressed, anxious, pessimist with a disdain for leadership who does not enjoy the feeling of “yep, that’s exactly how it’d happen” when you see the world play out on screen the way it does in your head, this probably isn’t the movie for you either.

(Or you can keep watching it and see if there’s a huge payoff! I’ve rarely suffered through 30 minutes of something only to get to the end and be like “wow, I’m glad I put myself through that for the amazing experience this turned out to be.”)

 

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Hot Takes: Spiderman – No Way Home

Big on fan service but lacking in plot, it’s a “meh” from me.

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1. I’m about as obsessed with Tom Holland and Zendaya as any grown as millennial can be…which means I don’t care all that much, but I think they’re adorable and I will pinch their lil cheeks if given the chance. Oh, and I randomly watch clips of their interviews when they pop up on Twitter. Such delightful young people.

2. Y’all. They are acting in this movie. Dare I say, as a whole, this may be the best acted Marvel film? Andrew Garfield is clearly the best Spiderman and he very nearly made me cry three times I think. Tobey Maguire is a little shit, but he was holding his own as well. Tom and Zendaya rose to the occasion. Willem Dafoe! My god. Best comic villain I think? They were all acting for the back of the theater.

3. I hope Dr. Strange gets to go on vacation soon. They really wearing dude out.

4. Seventeen-year-olds are annoying. But they are not stupid. Especially the ones on their way to MIT who have been to space and saved the world. I cannot believe they wrote Peter Parker the way they did. If I don’t like a main character, I don’t like the movie. And I could not stand the Peter they wrote for this movie. (more in the spoilers)

5. They giving Happy a lil too much. I don’t actually need him to have so much screen time.

6. There’s too much screen time in general! I was ready to gooooooo. I didn’t think Marvel could make a movie feel longer than Eternals but I stand corrected.

7. Fan service is a tricky thing to pull off successfully. You have to satiate the loyalists’ desire while keeping the attention of the casual viewers. I’ve never seen a pre-MCU Spiderman so I didn’t know Tobey or Andrew or any of their villains. I thought they did a good job. There was chemistry between the three of them (or at least, faked chemistry) that I didn’t expect and I got a decent sense of who they were in their respective franchises. I wasn’t applauding or cheering, because I didn’t care, but I was impressed that I was invested in the two previous Peter Parkers with so little exposure to them.

8. Something feels wrong about seeing Tom Holland in his underwear.

9. Something feels right about seeing Tom Holland in his underwear.

10. Is anybody going to address the fact that Peter Parker is a 17-year-old science nerd who can perfectly tailor spandex without a serger? I have watched Project Runway for two decades. And I can sew. That child is not making performance activewear.

11. My problem with this movie is the plot. I feel like the writers knew the beats they wanted to hit and slacked off with the journeys between the beats. Nothing Peter did felt in character with what he would do given what he’s been through, how smart he is, and how a rational human being processes information. They wanted a cool battle sequence for Dr. Strange to show off and a cool battle sequence for the three Spideys to get together, but nobody put much thought into how those things should happen. (more in the spoilers)

12. Somebody fill me in on why the InfoWars Alex Jones guy hates Spiderman so much. That much fixation does not seem healthy to me.

Score: 6.5

Spoilers!

13. So, I think you can give this movie an extra point or two if you have some sort of investment in Spiderman because everyone seems to be universally over the moon about it. I don’t care about Spiderman and I’ve only watched the Tom Holland ones because I’m invested in the serial nature of the MCU. I like a sprawling interconnected story — I grew up on NBC soap operas. I think that attachment to the character’s three iterations and the excitement of seeing them together is honestly clouding the fact that this plot is weak y’all.

14. If I have someone in front of me who is an expert in their field doing something extremely dangerous and they tell me to shut up, do you what I’m gonna do? I’ma shut up and let them do their work. In no universe is this kid, who has been to space with Dr. Strange and who has seen what he can do and knows how serious he is about his shit, gonna keep interrupting him while he’s doing his work. MJ only knew he was Spiderman for a week. So what if she forgets? Just tell her! This man is holding the universe in his hands and you are bothering him about your GF and your BFF forgetting you’re a superhero? You can literally just tell them. That right there sent me out of the movie and I really never got back in.

15. Are we to believe that bad guys aren’t bad anymore and we can just fix them all with a little science? Your lil girlfriend’s dad from two movies ago wanted to kill you, and judging from that creepy Jared Leto Bat-Villain trailer, he still does. You gonna do a little science and make him sweet? The sandman in this movie allegedly just wanted to go home, and yet did everything in his power to make sure Team Spidey could not succeed. Sparky didn’t have a coming to Jesus — y’all just took his batteries. You broke the entire universe for five people? Do y’all realize how many innocents are about to die during this story arc because Peter Parker couldn’t send five supervillains home to die? Where they had been dead? Because they were running around killing people?

16. I remember the Sokovia Accords. The Avengers were kneecapped a bit because they kept blowing stuff up and accidentally killing people. And they have recovered from that black eye to become universally loved again. They have a whole Broadway show dedicated to them in Hawkeye. Spiderman is in that Broadway show even though he wasn’t even present at the battle depicted in said Broadway show. They all just brought half the population of the universe back. But a SWAT team showed up to an apartment building on the sayso of a rightwing nutjob who hates Spiderman? With no investigation? No second guessing?

17. No Way Home made Peter Parker into a bratty little incompetent with no sense of responsibility or logic so he could break the world in order to get three Spidermen on screen. He made a stupid decision to save five villains in order for Aunt May to die. And Aunt May died because Marisa Tomei told writers she wanted there to be more focus on her community organizing. They had these beats to hit and some really lazy writing to get us there.

 

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Hot Takes: House of Gucci

This is the longest, prettiest, Lifetime movie I’ve ever seen.

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1. I don’t understand movies set outside the Anglosphere where everyone is speaking English with an accent but slip into their native language randomly. This is Italy. Everybody would be speaking Italian, but it’s made for Hollywood, so they speak English. I get that. But then there is no need for anyone to ever say anything in Italian if we’re going with the illusion that they all speak English with a thick accent. I wish every director would stop doing this.

2. Everybody is in the same movie, except Jeremy Irons. He came to work on a run-of-the-mill Hollywood adaptation of a true story, and everybody else came to a community theater production of Fashion Godfather. It’s like he doesn’t realize what kind of movie he’s in until he’s in the room with Jared Leto and thinks, “oh…we’re doing this kind of acting.”

3. Jared Leto’s Paolo Gucci is one of my least favorite movie characters of all time because he’s unnecessarily buffoonish and there was no need to make him that way. And because they wrote the character as an utterly incompetent manchild, they put Jared in fat prosthetics to drive the point home. For what? It is 2021. There was so much outrage of Sarah Paulson wearing a fatsuit to play Linda Tripp because they could’ve just gotten a larger actress to play her. Where is the outrage for Jared Leto doing fat cosplay to portray a character that wasn’t even fat and is only depicted that way to make him stand out from his fashionable family?

4. Lady Gaga is not a good actress. She’s not a bad actress, but y’all give Stefani a lot. She was fine in A Star is Born and she’s fine in House of Gucci. Literally just fine.

5. The first 10 or 15 minutes are actually charming. I didn’t expect Stefani to be good at that kind of character, but she actually pulls off Doe Eyed and Besotted quite well.

6. Everyone is laughing while watching the movie, but are you having a good time? No really — do you want to be laughing? That’s my thing with the tone. It is very clear that these people are making a very serious film about Gucci and the shoehorned bits of levity are meant to break the tension of this very serious film. But you’re only supposed to laugh then. If you are giggling throughout, the movie has missed its mark. Unintentional camp is just bad moviemaking. It’s bad direction and it’s bad screenwriting.

7. There are plenty of height differences more extreme than Lady Gaga at 5’1 and Adam Driver at 6’2. I’m not sure why that became a story, but it’s really not that notable. Plenty of short women star in movies with tall men. Kristen Bell is 5’1 and Jason Segel is 6’4 in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, plus Jason gets his big ol’ hog out for it. I don’t need breathless reporting about any other category of inches.

8. Kind of more interested in a Tom Ford biopic . I didn’t know he was from Texas and I didn’t really know what Gucci was like before he took over the reigns.

9. Al Pacino is having a great time and for me, he’s the only one who managed to be over the top without going over the edge. Everyone else is either playing it safe or jumping off a cliff, but Al is comfortably perched upon the precipice of taste without going over.

10. Stunning cinematography. Fantastic wardrobe choices. It’s very pretty to watch.

11. I would like a movie survey from the people who loved this movie where they also list their top ten films, because I’m not sure who this is for. People who I assumed would hate it seem to either love it or at least not be bothered, and people I assumed would love it wanted to walk out. I feel like there’s some overlap of people who liked Austin Powers and A Star is Born with this movie in the middle and I can’t think of a more painful Venn Diagram.

Score: 4/10

 

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