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Eternals (2021) Review

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Eternals

Time: 157 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Gemma Chan as Sersi
Richard Madden as Ikaris
Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo
Lia McHugh as Sprite
Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos
Lauren Ridloff as Makkari
Barry Keoghan as Druig
Don Lee as Gilgamesh
Harish Patel as Karun
Kit Harington as Dane Whitman
Salma Hayek as Ajak
Angelina Jolie as Thena
Director: Chloé Zhao

The Eternals, a race of immortal beings with superhuman powers who have secretly lived on Earth for thousands of years, reunite to battle the evil Deviants.

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My interest in the MCU has been gradually decreasing ever since Endgame, and while I still enjoy the post Endgame instalments (especially the recently released Shang-Chi), there were only a few movies I was really looking forward to. One of these was Eternals, mainly because it’s a very different kind of Marvel movie focussing on completely different characters. Not only that, but it also has a great cast, and the director is Chloe Zhao, who earlier this year won Oscars and acclaim for Nomadland. Then the trailers eventually were starting to release and it looked rather disappointing, looking much blander than I was expecting. Then strangely, the reviews for Eternals turned out rather mixed, and if anything that got me excited for the. There was clearly something different about this movie from the others, and I was very interested to see it for myself. While it definitely has issues, I really liked Eternals on the whole.

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First and foremost, Eternals is not a traditional MCU movie and in a way, it is a welcome break for the franchise. I will say though that it is a bit of a mess. It is refreshing seeing a different structure than the one we see in pretty much every other MCU movies. There is a lot of worldbuilding, especially as if it’s for a side of the MCU we’ve not seen or known about before. While I was interested in it, it’s not like it didn’t come with its problems. It feels like there’s so much information that needed to be conveyed, and a lot of this is done through numerous flashbacks over the course of the movie, specifically focussing on the Eternals. You could say that Eternals has something of a non-linear narrative, and it doesn’t always work. It’s not unusual for a Marvel movie to have flashbacks but the Eternals are 10 immortal beings who have lived for centuries, and so there’s many moments that are presented to us, and most of the time it interrupts the flow and pacing. I really do feel like they could’ve pulled back on the flashbacks, an example of this is one involving Brian Tyree Henry’s character which lasts less than a minute and doesn’t end up adding anything. All this exposition is probably why it’s the second longest Marvel movie at around 2 hours and 40 minutes long. It doesn’t help that much of the main plotline is the Eternals reuniting, so it feels like its on repeat until it approaches the third act.

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The plot itself isn’t the best, essentially it’s about the Eternals trying to save the world from ending. Not only is the premise very simple and familiar, but it’s also feels meaningless at this point given the countless other “save the world” plots from the other Marvel movies. With that said, I was still invested in the plot, and I think its to do with everything around the plot. For one, despite the overload of information, I was interested in the lore and the worldbuilding. There’s particularly a scene where Gemma Chan’s character is being presented a lot of information, and I loved the way that it was shown on screen. The characters also got me invested, and it really helped that despite the large scale and stakes, Chloe Zhao approaches the story from a very human angle like Nomadland (and presumably The Rider which I haven’t seen yet). She deliberately focuses on the human emotions and the relationships between these beings who have lived many centuries and generations. The downside is that it unfortunately clashes with the Marvel formula that Eternals still partly follows, and in a way it makes this one movie feel like two very different movies struggling to meet a compromise. For what its worth though, it made the story a lot more interesting to watch. The reason I was still invested in the third act was because of the characters, making the stakes feel more personal despite the scale. I also appreciate the subtle moments and it actually seems like its taking the audiences seriously in a way. As expected the MCU has humour that’s hit or miss, and being placed in this movie makes it play even worse and out of place. I feel obligated to mention that Eternals has two credits scenes as expected, teasing a follow up if it ever happens. However it will be disappointing if Eternals doesn’t get a sequel, because even before the credits roll, the film ends on a cliff-hangar. While it does make an effective hook for the sequel, it is tempting fate if we don’t see a continuation.

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One of the biggest selling points of this movie is the huge and talented cast. A lot of attention has been going towards the diversity and representation with the cast and characters, and its very well earned. Some characters get more focus than others, but when you essentially have 10 main characters that’s to be expected. There’s a lot of relationships between a lot of the Eternals that feel very real and genuine. I also like how a lot of the characters are very distinct and different from each other. Unfortunately, two of the weaker performers/characters are the leads, Gemma Chan as Sersi, and Richard Madden as Ikaris. Sersi is the closest character to being a main protagonist, and despite Chan’s solid performance I found her rather boring and not that interesting. I also found Madden quite underwhelming as Ikaris (who is pretty much Marvel’s Superman in terms of powers), and he was not that interesting especially when he’s placed alongside the other Eternals. With that said, there is a point later on in the movie where Madden and Ikaris do vastly improve and become more interesting. Also while I earlier mentioned that the relationships between the Eternals are believable, the relationship between Sersi and Ikaris felt very weak. It just feels fake and stiff, Chan and Madden barely have any chemistry, and annoyingly it’s the most prominent on screen relationship in the film. Salma Hayek plays Ajak, the leader of the Eternals, and while she’s good in the part, she has the least amount of screentime of the 10 main characters. So while its established that she means something to each member of the Eternals, its hard to get emotionally connected to her.

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Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo is quite funny and of the cast probably brings the most amount of levity. Lia McHugh as Sprite was a mixed bag, I oscillated between liking and not liking the character. The rest of the Eternals I will be mentioning really needed a lot more screentime than they received. Angelina Jolie as Thena had an interesting character setup especially as she’s on the more unstable side, but she’s strangely underutilised outside of the action. She is good at the action, I liked her powers, and Jolie is really good at the silent warrior thing, but unfortunately that’s really all there is to the character outside of her relationship with Gilgamesh, played by Ma Dong-seok. Gilgamesh was enjoyable and likable, and I liked his powers, and I wish we saw more of him. Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos was also one of the highlights of the film for me. Barry Keoghan as Druig was probably the most interesting of the Eternals, especially how he’s quite different in both personality and powers. Lauren Ridloff as Makkari is definitely held back by her lack of screentime but makes a strong impression, especially with her speed powers.

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There’s a few other supporting actors I want to mention. One of the cast members is Kit Harington as a guy named Dane Whitman, who early in the movie is Sersi’s boyfriend. He’s really only in the movie for a few scenes but he’s likable, and shares believable chemistry with Gemma Chan. He’s basically just in this movie to establish him here before he plays a more prominent part in future instalments (if they ever happen). There’s also Harish Patel as Kingo’s manager who is along for the ride with the Eternals for much of the film, and he’s quite fun to watch. The villains aren’t special but I didn’t have a problem with them, with the exception of one. Many of the physical enemies the Eternals are up against are Deviants, monsters they were sent to fight and destroy. They work well enough as physical threats, even if they are nothing special. However there is one deviant voiced by Bill Skarsgard that’s focused on and given some prominence, and I don’t really get why. I only mention this because he’s forced into the third act for some reason, and he just distracts if anything.

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Chloe Zhao’s work as the director of Eternals definitely helps the overall film. You do get to see the massive scope and scale of the film. The cinematography is really nice, it’s a beautiful movie to look at, especially with some stunning landscapes. The action sequences are quite good, even if there’s not a lot of them. The visual effects could be disappointingly average a lot of the time, but I was able to look past them. I like how a lot of the Eternals’ powers are represented, a highlight being Makkari’s speed power. The score from Ramin Djawadi is great as expected, and it really elevates the movie.

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Eternals has its fair share of issues, some of the characters needed more screentime and fleshing out, and there is an overload of exposition which results in the narrative being a little messy and disjointed. With that said, it’s one of the most interesting MCU films in a while, if only in terms of how it differs from the other movies. While the central plot is nothing special, the characters and their relationships made it easy for me to get invested in what was happening. Additionally, Chloe Zhao’s direction also really made it one of the most unique MCU entries. It would be a shame if Eternals doesn’t get a follow up because its genuinely showing signs of the franchise somewhat changing, even if it makes them at odds with the formula it unfortunately still needs to somewhat follow. I would not put it in my top 10 favourite movies in the franchise, but I do think it’s at least worth checking out.

Men in Black International (2019) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Science fiction themes & violence
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Henry/Agent H
Tessa Thompson as Molly Wright/Agent M
Kumail Nanjiani as Pawny (voice)
Liam Neeson as High T
Rafe Spall as Agent C
Rebecca Ferguson as Riza Stavros
Laurent and Larry Bourgeois as The Twins
Emma Thompson as Agent O
Director: F. Gary Gray

The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe but so have the villains of the universe. To keep everyone safe, decorated Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and determined rookie M (Tessa Thompson) join forces — an unlikely pairing that just might work. When aliens that can take the form of any human arrive on Earth, H and M embark on a globe-trotting adventure to save the agency — and ultimately the world — from their mischievous plans.

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Men in Black International was a movie I was cautiously optimistic about. The idea of making a Men in Black movie and not having the iconic duo of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith seemed like a disaster. With that said, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth were the leads, and they seemed to be a good pairing, especially as the two have worked together before. Additionally, the movie has Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson and more. On top of that, at least it was expanding on the Men in Black universe instead of flat out being a remake/reboot of the original movie. Even though the trailers looked a little generic and familiar, I was willing to give it a chance. Men in Black International is one of those movies that’s incredibly just above average in just about every aspect. There’s not a lot here that’s actually bad, but there’s not a lot here that’s good either.

The plot is reasonably easy to follow but you’re not really invested in it, or its characters despite their performances. It doesn’t even necessarily feel like a Men in Black movie, more like a modern blockbuster with a Men in Black skin. Much of the writing and especially the humour certainly feels like it’s from a passable sci-fi flick released today. As for the humour, it isn’t embarrassingly bad, but more often than not it misses than actually hits. It starts off a little rough too, jumping back a couple years for a scene with Chris Hemsworth and Liam Neeson, jumping back even further with Tessa Thompson’s character as a child, before then jumping back to the present. Then there’s the whole bit about Thompson finding the MIB and somehow convincing them to make her an agent which I didn’t completely buy. After that point the movie picks up a little. There’s also a twist that happened, and somehow I managed to figure it out months ago before learning that the movie actually had a twist at all. By the time the first act is over, it’s incredibly obvious what it is, it’s honestly kind of embarrassing how easy it is to figure it out. It’s not necessarily a major issue, but it goes to show how familiar the plot is. In terms of what it actually adds to the Men in Black universe, it’s in a new setting, and I guess you get some new gadgets/weapons in a couple scenes. However, it honestly feels like they did the bare minimum with the plot, kind of a wasted opportunity.

Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth are the leads, and while they don’t rival Smith and Jones they are charismatic and likable, and among the better aspects of the movie. They really end up carrying much of the movie. Other cast members like Kumail Nanjiani (voicing an alien), Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson (reprising her role from the last movie), Rafe Spall and Rebecca Ferguson do alright in their roles. The villains aren’t really bad but nothing memorable either. Also I should probably mention that there’s no cameo from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, so don’t wait through the credits expecting a scene with them, because that doesn’t happen.

After the opening credits and the movie starts, you can definitely tell this movie was not made by original Men in Black director Barry Sonnefeld. International is directed more as a much more modern and conventional action movie. F. Gary Gray directed The Italian Job remake, Law Abiding Citizen, Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious, and now it’s him who’s directing this movie. He’s a pretty good director and to be fair his work on Men in Black International isn’t necessarily bad, but it lacks style and personality. The visual effects are pretty good, again typical blockbuster effects but better than those in the previous movies. The alien designs are fine but at the same time they’re a little basic. There’s very little that’s impressive, just reasonably competent.

Men in Black International is just okay. Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth and the rest of the cast are pretty good, and the visual effects and action is decent, but outside of that there’s not much to really say about the movie. The plot is fine, the direction is fine, it’s competently made, it’s rather forgettable, and there are very little surprises. It’s a reasonably entertaining 2 hours of your time but nothing more than that. If you’re a fan of the movies, then maybe it’s worth a watch, but don’t expect a lot going in.

The Big Sick (2017) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language
Cast
Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail (based on himself)
Zoe Kazan as Emily Gardner (based on Emily V. Gordon)
Holly Hunter as Beth
Ray Romano as Terry
Adeel Akhtar as Naveed
Zenobia Shroff as Sharmeen
Anupam Kher as Azmat
Director: Pete Travis

Kumail Nanjiani is a Pakistani comic who meets an American graduate student named Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his stand-up shows. As their relationship blossoms, he soon becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her. When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother (Holly Hunter) and father (Ray Romano).

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The Big Sick was a movie I heard about only recently, I heard that it was a romantic comedy that a lot of people really loved. I really didn’t know what to expect, the trailer was funny and looked like it had potential, so I was cautiously optimistic before seeing it. The Big Sick surprised me on many levels, it surprised me how funny it was, it surprised me how emotional it was, and it also surprised me how great it was overall, this is probably one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen (then again it’s not saying a lot).

I won’t lie, I really am not a fan of romantic comedies, save for a few like 500 Days of Summer. In order for a romantic comedy to really get me to like them, they have to really be well written and something different from all the countless generic romantic comedies that are dumped out every year, and it really does. The Big Sick is a very unconventional romantic comedy. This movie is written so incredibly well, the movie is absolutely hilarious with every joke hitting hard, the dialogue fantastically written. At the same time though you actually care about what’s going on with these characters. It felt so real and genuine and not fake at all. To summarise, this movie isn’t pretentious, it doesn’t succumb to any typical lines or moments that are in typical romantic comedies movies. Like don’t expect a montage of someone being sad with a cheesy sad song, when the film is emotional, it feels earned. The Big Sick also has some social commentary about many things including interracial relationships and religion, especially with Kumail’s family, and how Kumail has to abide by his family’s rules, as otherwise he might be removed from the family and never spoken to again. The drama and comedy are balanced out very well. If there are any potential flaws with the movie, the 3rd act does go on for a little too long. As for how accurate it is (as it’s based on a true story) I can’t comment, but given the people who wrote this movie, I’ll just say that it’s highly likely that its true.

The acting overall was really good for the movie. Kumail Nanjiani was hilarious and likable in his role (as himself), but also handles the dramatic scene very well, you really care about him. Equally as great is Zoe Kazan as Emily, Kumail’s girlfriend. The chemistry between the two is perfect, they are so likable and fun to watch. The supporting actors are also great, particularly the parents of Emily, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. They were also so entertaining and also have some great moments.

I am truly surprised at how much I loved The Big Sick. It is fantastically written, hilarious, emotional, real, unpretentious and its just so great overall. If you don’t like romantic comedies, I still recommend seeing it, as someone who doesn’t like romantic comedies either, I thoroughly loved this movie, it is a lot different than you’d think this movie would be. The Big Sick is one of the best films of 2017 and is definitely worth checking out.