It’s accurate to call “Happy Death Day 2U” a dumb movie, and accurate to call it a smart movie. It seems as if Blumhouse studio asked writer-director Christopher Landon (who also directed the 2017 original, from Scott Lobdell’s screenplay) to go hog-wild building on the premise from the first entry, and Landon does just that. This sequel isn’t nearly as much of a straight rehash as the horrible trailers suggest.
The first two chapters of the “John Wick” saga — in addition to somehow making top-shelf entertainment out of a suit-wearing, dog-loving dude gun-fu-ing his way through baddies like he’s in a live-action video game — do some of the best world-building of any original franchise this decade. At the end of “Chapter 2,” John Wick (Keanu Reeves) breaks a cardinal rule of this oddly formal crime underworld by killing someone on the grounds of New York’s Continental hotel. Thus in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” every assassin who loves money (all of them, in other words) aims to kill Wick and collect the $14 million bounty. Continental boss Winston (Ian McShane) gives Wick 50-50 odds of surviving.
Writer-director Jordan Peele’s latest horror offering, “Us” – which hits digital June 4 and disc June 18 — opens on a seemingly endless wall of caged rabbits, a promise of future symbolism. The slow and agonizing zooming out and the screeching music, driven by a chorus from hell, invokes an anxiety I haven’t felt in a long time. I felt this fear in snippets throughout the movie, although the pinnacle of the horror is the beginning. Despite this — and the surprising mixing of genre signals — I thoroughly enjoyed Peele’s followup to the 2017 classic “Get Out.”
Fighting with My Family” doesn’t redefine the sports biopic genre, which in a way is too bad because professional wrestling is such an unusual thing, sitting on the border between athletics and entertainment. It might be fascinating to dig further into the mechanisms of how participants – and ultimately, champions — are chosen and how their narratives are written. As it stands, “Fighting” is a standard biopic in structure, but the story of Paige is so genuinely inspiring, and actress Florence Pugh (“The Little Drummer Girl”) is such a natural star, that the film is totally engaging.
The grand experiment is over, and it’s a success. The first 22 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comprise a saga similar to a TV serial, but with way more characters, way more side journeys and way more money. And most remarkably for a movie series, it has an ending for the initial batch of six Avengers, with “Avengers: Endgame.” We knew all this going into the film, which itself raises one final question: Does it stick the landing? The answer is a qualified yes.
The brilliance of “mid90s” (2018), now available on Amazon Prime, is in the details. Writer-director Jonah Hill, known for his comedic acting roles, grew up in this time, and he has a great ear for the way teenagers talked – and the way coolness was the only currency that mattered. Watched from the perspective of 2019, the film makes us think about how the maturation of teen culture has benefited the most vulnerable kids, but also how mid-’90s teens were toughened up by the casual meanness around them.
Who will live? Who will die? Who will be resurrected? How will our heroes defeat Thanos? Big questions are on the minds of Marvel Cinematic Universe fans heading into the 22nd outing, “Avengers: Endgame,” which will hit theaters Friday, April 26. It’s not the end of the saga by any means (trailers for July’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” are already out, so I have a good feeling about Spidey’s fortunes), but it’s definitely the end of an era as some of the original Avengers – such as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America – might be calling it quits with this film, one way or another.
Glass,” now available for home viewing, is an excuse to spend more time in the universe of “Unbreakable” (2000) and “Split” (2017), and I like that universe, so I can’t complain too much. On the special edition DVD of “Unbreakable,” writer-director M. Night Shyamalan says he wrote a three-act story but decided to use only the first act for that film because Acts II and III didn’t engage him as much as David Dunn’s (Bruce Willis) superhero origin story.
There’s something to be said about B-list superheroes. The average moviegoer (who doesn’t have a doctorate in comic-book lore) has lower expectations, and we also don’t have as many preconceived notions about what the movie should be. “Shazam!,” featuring a game turn by Zachary Levi and a cadre of good child actors, slots nicely into this space, calling to mind “Big” (and at one point directly referencing the Tom Hanks classic) but also making me hope the kid-on-the-inside Shazam can exchange dialog with the dour Batman at some point.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) is a typical, solid animated kids’ movie about teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) learning how to be Spider-Man, but on my home viewing I got the sense that it’s mostly supposed to be a visual spectacle. Many action sequences are tailored to theatrical 3D, and some frames look like when you remove your 3D glasses and peek at the screen. My Cold Bananas colleague Shaune tells me this isn’t lazy 2D conversion, but rather a mimicking of old-school comic-book printing, with colors bleeding together. I might’ve enjoyed the visuals more with that perspective.